Requiem for a lockout

Twitter wars, cattle ranches and famous podiums — this impasse had it all.

Requiem for a lockout
Video production crews move quickly to wire the newly arrived NHL podium for an upcoming press conference following a day of negotiations between the NHL and the Players Association at the Westin Times Square on December 5, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The circus is leaving town and some of the clowns who made it so depressingly memorable are tagging along.

With a tentative agreement in place to end the 113-day NHL lockout, preparations are underway for speedy training camps, a shortened schedule and apologetic ticket drives.

Commissioner Gary Bettman, who oversaw his second lockout this decade and served as the face of NHL ownership during the impasse, can go back to getting booed while handing out the Stanley Cup and antagonizing Hockey Night in Canada host Ron MacLean with patronizing, passive aggressive interview answers.

Donald Fehr can go back to doing whatever it is union heads do when there isn’t a collective bargaining agreement to sort out.

But before we put the final nail in the coffin of a labour dispute that never should have happened, let’s give one last stick tap to those who’ve kept the chattering classes chattering since Sept. 15.

JIM DEVELLANO

Less than a week after the NHL lockout started and in the midst of a deep freeze between the two sides, Detroit Red Wings vice president Jim Devellano granted an interview to, of all things, some publication called the Island Sports News. Look, sometimes good metaphors are hard to come up with, especially during interviews. But Devellano managed to tick off all the wrong boxes with this:

“It’s very complicated and way too much for the average Joe to understand, but having said that, I will tell you this: The owners can basically be viewed as the ranch, and the players, and me included, are the cattle. The owners own the ranch and allow the players to eat there. That’s the way it’s always been and that’s the way it will be forever.”

Basically call fans dummies who can’t grasp labour negotiations? Check. Annoy players by likening them to livestock? Check. Anger owners interested in controlling the message at a time when fan anger was sharply directed at the league. Check.

Devellano couldn’t be blamed for thinking his comments would be missed by most, given the Island Sports News web site looks like it was crafted by a Grade 10 computer class. Instead, his words traveled like a cow that’s eaten all the delicious grass on one side of a field to the other side … of the field. Or something.

KRYS BARCH

So there’s this thing on the interwebs called Twitter. On it, you can share your thoughts with the world. The only catch – you’re only allowed to include 140 characters per “Tweet.” Tough!

When New Jersey tough guy Krys Barch logged on to Twitter about a week after Devellano, one Tweet wasn’t going to suffice.

In a rant fuelled by bottles of beer and shots of hard liquor, Barch teed off. He listed the injuries he has suffered playing hockey, juxtaposing them with the image of owners who “probably sit there smoking the same brand of cigar, sipping the same cognac, and going on vacation. To one of five houses they own.” He talked about Neil Young. He talked about how simple things would have been if he’d only lived in the “Wild West.”

And 3,222 characters later, he was done. You’d think the ensuing fallout would have served as a cautionary tale when it came to Twitter, but alas, the antics were only beginning.

EVANDER KANE

Las Vegas is fun even if you have very little money. You can play penny slots and buy $1 beer or, even better, get comped some beer while playing penny slots. It’s also bizarre and surreal and rife with opportunities for funny photos you can later post on social media to entertain your friends and family.

The problem when you’re a 21-year-old multimillionaire hockey player in the midst of a lockout that has whipped fans into a frenzy of anger, and your idea of a good joke is Tweeting out a photo of yourself pretending a brick of $100 bills is a cell phone, all while standing on the penthouse balcony of the Cosmopolitan Hotel, is that many won’t see it as very hilarious.

They’ll see it as ungrateful, arrogant, out of touch – a slap in the face.

Jets winger Evander Kane learned that the hard way and was forced to offer a half-hearted mea culpa in the Winnipeg Free Press.

Need we say it again? “What happens in Vegas…”

KYLE TURRIS

Kyle Turris loves Finland. Just ask him. Right now. Loved playing there too.

Problem was, that didn’t jive with the story he told while he was playing in Oulu, just a jump skip and a hop from the arctic circle. In a freelance article for the Globe and Mail, Turris was quoted blasting everything from Finnish league travel to the food at truck stop buffets to the lack of entertainment options in Northern Scandinavia.

Finns, in particular, were perturbed.

Turris, though his agent, eventually put out a statement saying the article was inaccurate, though he didn’t elaborate or deny he’d provided the quotes it contained.

And the whole thing blew over after a few days, probably because the whole thing was dumb.

GUY SEROTA AND @NHL PODIUM

Twitter caused a lot of problems for a lot of people and played a part in the pinnacle of the absurd during the NHL lockout. In late November, the U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation service announced it had been approached to try and find some common ground between the league and the players. It listed the names of the poor souls given the task, one of whom went by the name Guy Serota.

Within hours, curious fans hit the web to unearth any Internet footprints that may have been left behind by the potential season saviors. And by the end of the day, the Craig Ferguson-quoting, Sarah Silverman-admiring, joke video-making Serota had been booted from the NHL beat and lost his Twitter account. It was hard not to feel bad for the guy.

Meanwhile, an NHL podium arrived on the scene as quickly as Serota left it. In early December, fans and reporters thought an NHL deal might be at hand after officials at NHL headquarters rolled out a podium (or lectern, for language nerds) for a potential press conference. As the late night hours turned fans and reporters wacky, someone snapped up @NHLPodium on Twitter and started making jokes about Gary Bettman’s height. And 14,798 followers later, here we are.

These incidents and a handful of others were at times a soothing tonic for many who were forced, perhaps because of work or out of morbid curiosity, to follow the NHL’s collective bargaining agreement talks each and every day. They provided a chuckle at a time when there was so much to be angry about – millionaires fighting billionaires over fans’ money, lost games, lost jobs, lost love for the game.

Sometimes, if you didn’t laugh, you just might cry.

And now, back to your regularly-scheduled programming.

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