By Martin Iheke
I cannot, for the life of me, figure out what the deal is with the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players’ Association. How can these guys be so stupid? The league is coming off a successful postseason with having some of its best television ratings in a long time. Attendance at the arenas is going back up around the league since the last lockout that wiped out the entire 2004-2005 season. The casual fan is starting to buy in to the NHL again only to have the owners and players wreck what they have been trying to repair from the damage the last lockout caused.
For those of you who have not been playing attention, the current collective bargaining agreement deal between the owners and players is set to expire on Saturday. Commissioner Gary Bettman is prepared to lock out the players if a new deal is not reached by then. Both sides are having trouble coming into some sort of an agreement on revenue sharing. The owners want the players to significantly cut their share of revenue back from their current 57% level to 46%. The players do not want to do that. In their latest proposal to the owners, their share of revenue will fall in the first three years and then go back up to the current 57% with the players’ union making several proposals to bring that level to less than 57% according to defendingbigd.com.
If you do not quite understand this whole issue, then you are not alone. I do not either nor do I care. The simple thing here for me is why both sides cannot agree to a 50-50 split of the revenue sharing and move on? This league cannot afford another lockout. Since Bettman became commissioner in 1993, there have been two major work stoppages under his watch. For those reasons alone, Bettman should no longer be the commissioner but that is another topic for another day. Another thing that bothers me about this is the fact that they are in no such hurry to come to an agreement before the league starts missing some games. They meet two or three times a week over a certain period and if nothing is resolved, they end up calling it a day and point fingers at each other. Why are they not meeting every minute of every day until a deal is reached? The fact that there is little to no media coverage of this goes to show you how little the media care especially for a sport like hockey that is last amongst the four majors sports in terms of popularity here in the United States.
As a fan of this league, this is very disappointing. I thought these guys would have learned their lesson from the last lockout. That one nearly killed this league and with a possibility of another one, do they really think the majority of fans will be back this time? Apparently, Bettman thinks so. “We recovered the last time because we have the world’s greatest fans,” Bettman said according to the700level.com. Oh, really Bettman? Do not be so sure of that. We, as fans, can only take so much from you greedy owners and players. Remember, if fans stop showing up to games and watching it on television as well as not buy any merchandise associated with the NHL, you guys will not exist. In a time were most of us are struggling to make ends meet because of a struggling economy, the last thing we want to hear are millionaires and billionaires fighting over money. It would be in the best interest for both the owners and players to get a deal done by Saturday. The last thing you want to do is take the fans for granted which is what that quote by Bettman meant.