NHL – Can’t we all just get along?


Chicago, IL — On this Labor Day we are all reminded to take pause and celebrate the achievements and skills of our labor forces. It is ironic that this holiday is celebrated by both the United States and Canada on the same day while, the NHL that’s the National Hockey League not the No Hockey League, finds itself in the middle of yet another labor dispute.  The leagues current CBA is expiring very soon Sept 15th to be exact and the sides appear to be very far apart.

In the court of public opinion you would have to think that the NHLPA is winning on many fronts while the owners and the NHL strike their best chin up and chest out Gordon Gekko poses. The NHL is it’s own worse public relations machine and presents more of a threat to the health of the league than any financial set back could.

The biggest divide that the two sides can not seem to agree on is of course money. Why should the NHL be any different that any for profit organization. Money after all is what makes the corporate world and business go round some would say it plain old makes the world go round. Since this league is a for profit organization it is then imperative that the league make a profit to sustain viable growth and a flourishing existence for all involved.

In other words it is in every NHL owners’ best interest that the NHL as a whole be as profitable as possible and that all of the teams be successful if growth is to be achieved and to further your brand to new audiences with the hopes of them becoming ticket holders. Sounds fairly simple right?

Why then is Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider (Comcast) and Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs (Delaware North Companies)  unwilling to share with their owner brethren of struggling franchises like John P. McConnell of the Columbus Blue Jackets  SLB Acquisition Holdings LLC (Tom Stillman, chairman) of the St. Louis Blues?

Well for one thing these are all suits even the owners of the small market or struggling teams and there is the problem. These are all real life Gordon Gekkos who are strictly motivated by greed and delivering the highest stock price to Wall Street for their corporations. What these owners are forgetting unlike Wall Street where companies are competing against each other for market share they are part of something bigger than their own interests or teams – A league.

An elite league that delivers a one of a kind product while there is the AHL, WHL & ECHL their product doesn’t really compare to the NHL. So what the owners should be focusing on rather than competing against themselves is how to better the league and the play within the league and to try to reach as broad an audience as possible all the while delivering brilliant entertaining skills on the ice.

The NHLPA lead by Donald Fehr at least admits that the league maybe in financial bind and in their proposal offered to take less for the players and offering a plan for assisting the smaller market teams and the one’s in financial distress which is more than the owners and the league has offered. You would think that self-preservation would be a motivating force for the NHL but apparently it is up to the players to be the voice of common sense.

The owners are complaining that the players’ salaries are too high yet didn’t they just pay Zach Parise and Ryan Suter over 100mil dollars before even dawning a Minnesota Wild uniform. These are both highly skilled players but really has either of them won a Stanley Cup before? No and they are not a guarantee now. The players should not be blamed but the owners should be for not having any self-restraint.

Was it not the same owner of the Flyers Ed Snider who tried to kick the struggling Nashville Predators when they were down? They just lost their all-star dman in Suter to the Wild and then Philly enters driving up the price on their lone remaining star d man Shea Weber to force Nashville into paying more than they probably wanted. How is this for the betterment of the league? It’s a good thing the owners do not play on the ice because they know nothing of teamwork.

If the league is to survive let alone prosper the owners must take some actions themselves to getting the league healthy otherwise they may find themselves only running their other companies if the NHL goes defunct. The league only need look to Phoenix, AZ where they are still the owners of the Coyotes. There have been plenty of buyers but the league stubbornly insists on keeping the Coyotes in Phoenix. This team could have been sold many puck drops ago if they would have let it move to Canada.  In Canada this team would probably already be turning a profit and would have guaranteed attendance every night but that’s too logical.

Almost any hockey team in the world would love the services of a Sydney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews or Alex Ovechkin. The players will play in Europe or their native countries because they love to play hockey and will where ever they can so the league will not really be hurting them.

The fans in Canada and the US will be left to watch other leagues like the AHL or ECHL or will move onto other professional sports leagues like the NFL, NBA or MLS. The NHL will always remain the 4th sport and if they are no careful may drop down to the 5th sport because like the players the fans will move on. Not because they want to be because they have no choice.

Commissioner Bettman thinks that the league can treat fans any way they want and that the fans will always come back because in his words “hockey fans are the best in the world”.  That statement is true but there is only so much fans can take before they get fed up and move on. It is also not wise to infuriate your fans as ticket sales will probably be affected.

Last fall the NFL and NBA underwent labor disputes but somehow got deals done. Hell the NFL barely missed preseason games.  Somehow the optimism of those labor strife’s being settled quickly does not translate to the NHL given their history.

The Commissoner has stated that if a new CBA has not been reached that the league will lock out the players. The NHLPA is willing to play under the current agreement while still working towards a new agreement sounds reasonable. The league wants nothing to do with that either. Their approach is lets lose everything rather than work collaboratively in both parties best interests to come to a mutual agreement. Where did the owners and Commissioner Bettman learn their negotiating skills?

On this Labor Day let’s celebrate the work forces in the United States and Canada and let’s hope the NHL learns from it’s past mistakes and can look at their league objectively to ensure it’s survival for many years. I really don’t want to have to travel to Russia to see Sydney Crosby and neither does most US and Canadian hockey fans.

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