The View From Wisconsin

Just a random set of rants from a Sports Fan from Wisconsin.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


1. The NHL never really intended to play the 2004-05 hockey season. This was pretty clear by the way the league "went through the motions" of not declaring a deadline and continually painting a picture that the season was lost. The players knew it, too, because so many of them heeded Goodenow's warning to find work elsewhere for the year.

2. Both sides played the press like a drum. This dispute had so many "inside sources" that were about as reliable as a stopped clock, you weren't sure if you were listening to sports analysts or weathermen. So much misinformation was out there, it'll take years to figure out who was actually saying what and when.

3. There was a lot of "truth stretching" in the final two weeks before the cancellation of the season – on both sides. First, they were meeting. Then they weren't. Then there was a new deal on the table. Then therre wasn't. Then there was a late concession, then there wasn't. People didn't even believe Bettman when he said the season had been canceled.

4. Neither side had a very good grasp on collective bargaining techniques, nor did they have a comprehensive, well-thought-out plan to resolve the issue. Let's face it: both sides put their pet plans in their proposals, but didn't cover a lot of nuts-and-bolts stuff that would have been required for a completed CBA. There were flaws with the cores of the plans of each sides as well – the 24% solution would have been wiped out in a few years, when owners were back and flush with cash; the $36 million hard salary cap was unworkable, as was the "dispersal draft" that would have gotten teams down to the limit.

5. The internet and 24-hour sports news made it almost impossible for the two sides to engage in private, behind-the-scenes, meaningful dialogue. These guys couldn't hide from the cadre of reporters, wanna-be reporters, bloggers, cameras and microphones who wanted to get the inside scoop. Bettman and Goodenow couldn't take a dump without it being scrutinized somewhere.

6. Canada discovered that there is more to life than the NHL. The Grey Cup had record ratings, as did CFL regular-season games. More people paid attention to junior hockey and their local rinks. Canadian MP and Hockey Hall-of-Famer Ken Dryden said it best: "I think that there are a number of fans in this country who have sensed over the last number of months that actually, maybe, it (NHL hockey) was more habit than it was passion. I think for the great majority, it's still a passion. But others have discovered that maybe it was something else."

7. Neither Mario nor Wayne made a difference in the negotiatons; if anything, they probably cemented the lack of progress at the end. The way they were seemingly bewildered at the fact that the NHLPA didn't have a new proposal when they came in to negotiations last Saturday spoke volumes about their supposed "power" within the league – or with the membership of the NHLPA. Don't kid yourself: neither of these guys will be involved in a resolution.

8. We will honestly never completely know how much damage was really done by the lockout and cancellation of the season. There will probably be a minor cottage industry that will develop out of economists and other noted experts who will swear up and down that irrevocable damage was done to the game of hockey. People will throw out monetary estimates left and right. But we probably won't know how many lives were really changed by there not being hockey this year – unless the NHL never comes back.

9. The real losers in this whole dispute are the service workers at arenas and ancillary businesses, the NHL talent of the future, and – of course – the fans. The restaurants around the arenas; the ticket takers and parking-lot attendants; the junior hockey players; the college kids; all of them were the unrepresented persons in the labor dispute – the ones who a difference of a few million per team doesn't help pay the rent.

10. Money will end this dispute. No, not the lack of a paycheck by players, or the lack of income by owners. The money that will end this dispute will be the banks that hold the loans that are out on the teams and arenas, and the ones that issue credit ratings to the league. When they tell the NHL, "get something done or we're going to demand our money," that is when there will be a deal.