The time has come.
No, it’s not time for more talking points, or more attempts to unsuccessfully win a PR battle. It is not time to put together more focus groups. It is not time to talk about a deal being close. It is not time to talk about there being “a deal to be made.” The time for all of those things has passed.
The time has come to put all of the hard feelings, and any mistrust that may exist, aside for the good of the game, and for the fans that have seen this story play out far too many times.
This is not about placing blame to either side, because as much as each side wants to point the finger in the other direction, both sides share the blame in this mess. Sure it is easy to blame the owners, the players, Gary Bettman, or Donald Fehr, but at the end of the day, the correct answer is “all of the above” when it comes to blame.
So where do we go from here? What is the solution to end the madness and get the attention back on the ice where it belongs? The obvious answer is to start by assuring the players that they get paid fully for the contracts they agreed to and negotiated in good faith with the owners. Anything short of that is just morally wrong. The players should never be on the hook to correct any mistakes by owners in terms of dollars offered and spent. There are ways to achieve the “make whole” provision that would work for both sides, but it requires both sides to sit in a room for more than 10 minutes and work to get it done.
From the player’s perspective, they also need to understand that the NFL and the NBA both agreed to close to 50/50 splits, and that is likely what the end game is going to be with the NHL. There is a correct way to do that though, and it needs to be done over time. Asking the players to go from 57 percent of all revenues to 50 percent of all revenues overnight is quite the drop and something that players would likely and understandably have trouble accepting in such a harsh fashion. There is nothing wrong with the idea of grandfathering such a concept in, something that most owners and players would likely be open to the idea of if it meant ending the madness.
Look, the NHL, prior to this lockout, was making money. The players were making money. Business was good for both sides. So to see both sides sitting at this point is mind numbingly stupid. There is no need to reinvent the wheel here, because the system has proven that with a few adjustments, it can work. We all just need to get past the point of trying rout the other side in a resounding victory, because then neither side wins.
The one aspect of this particular lockout that has changed the dynamic is social media. It gives fans that were voiceless during previous work stoppages an instant voice to whatever the news of the day is. It is much easier to get an idea of the mindset of NHL fans now more than ever. When talking with the regular fan about the state of things in the NHL, it is an ugly conversation. Fans are dropping like flies, and it appears apathy is starting to set in. The longer this goes on, the worse it is going to get. There are far too many other available options for people in terms of where to spend their entertainment dollar, and that should be a scary thought for both the players and the league.
As we enter November, the owners and the players have a certain responsibility not only to the game, but to the fans they claim they love to sit down, lock themselves in a room with a stack of pizza, and don’t come out until there is a deal signed that ends the foolishness.