Saturday, January 08, 2005

RIP hockey season, National Hockey League in critical condition - Spector: "NHL VP Bill Daly announced on Thursday the meeting was cancelled due to lack of negotiations between the league and the NHL Players' Association toward a new collective bargaining agreement.

That's led to speculation as to the league's motives behind the now-aborted meeting. Some observers feel the intent was a bluff on the league's part to put pressure on the NHLPA to come forward with either a new proposal or to continue discussions on the league's counteroffer.

If that was the case, the owners clearly misjudged resolve of the players, who justifiably feel they've made all the concessions while the league refuses to negotiate. Now, the players appear more unified than ever against any attempt to cap their salaries.

...It's been suggested by many observers that the NHL['s] ...true goal is to declare an impasse, win the approval of the U.S. National Labor Relations Board, and return next season with replacement players while the NHLPA membership goes on strike."

At the outset, I thought that the owners had a legitimate grievance. When hockey players whom most Americans have never heard of expect to be paid like NFL players who are household names, that's a bit much. But when they players offered across-the-board 24% pay cuts, the league (i.e. the owners) essentially said, "Thanks. We'll take that and everything else we're demanding." Um, perhaps someone ought to show these guys the dictionary definition of negotiation.

The NHL is moving from hidebound to ossified. The league might think it's going to break the players' union, but it is slitting its own throat. Very few fans will pay to watch replacement players drawn from farm leagues, obscure European leagues or the Juniors. It just will not fly. Hockey will go on, but I have my doubts about the National Hockey League. It's too bad too. A league with so much history and tradition is about to die because of imbecilic management.