Whatever happened to the art of compromise?

Congratulations, National Hockey League owners and players. You did it.

You’ve taken yourself out of big-league arenas and you’ve taken yourself off TV. Opening night of the NHL passed Thursday without any action. The people in charge of broadcasting the Major League Baseball playoffs and the National Football League on Thursday thank you very much.

I couldn’t help but also notice that Showcase was airing a movie called Smoke Screen, which began just about the same time as the Ottawa Senators were originally scheduled to take the ice against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre.

How appropriate. For all the attempted public relations spin about caring so deeply about NHL fans – owners and players both please stand up – that’s ultimately a smoke screen for what the lockout is all about. It’s about money. Plain and simple.

So are there any lessons we can learn from the stalemate?

Well, clearly, the base instinct for greed is alive and well. All that noise about the owners and players forever being partners in making the game better coming out of the 2004-05 lockout – for the fans, of course – was a load of garbage.

There’s definitely no art of compromise model here for anyone to follow. Just in case you’ve forgotten, owners and players somehow can’t figure out how to divide up $3.3 billion in annual revenues. Say that number out loud a few times. Now, think about how ridiculous it is that neither side is receiving even a small taste of that pie. Right now, the dispute is making no cents for either side.

At this point, most locked out players are skating in circles, trying to stay in shape while practicing in small groups in small rinks. Representatives for owners and players were also skating in circles while negotiating in New York Wednesday and Thursday, unwilling to even discuss the principal issues. They’ve given new meaning to the neutral zone trap.

At the very least, perhaps we can discover some geography and history from the mess.

If your children ask where their favourite NHL player is, how about opening up that dusty atlas that’s buried on the bookshelf or the globe that’s taking up space on the mantle? At last count, roughly 130 NHL players are overseas, about 20 per cent of the league.

Ask your kids to find Rapperswil-Jona, Switzerland, current landing spot for Senators star Jason Spezza. Or Riga, Latvia, home for Senators winger Kaspars Daugavins. Look for Helsinki and Karpat, Finland, where Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson and Kyle Turris are playing, respectively. Locally trained stars Claude Giroux and Daniel Briere are in Berlin.

Drew Miller, best known as the younger brother of Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller, has signed with a professional team named the Braehead Clan. That’s in Glasgow, Scotland, hardly a traditional hockey hotbed. You’ve got to figure that at some point during the idle time between games, or even while sitting on the bench looking into the seats during games, he’ll be asking himself how the NHL and the players association reached the ugly impasse.

The same holds true for Senators’ centre/.winger Peter Regin, who is on the verge of returning to play in his hometown of Herning, Denmark.

Regin openly acknowledges that it’s East Coast League level hockey. He’ll likely be playing in front of crowds between 1,500 and 2,000 fans. He won’t be making much, if any, money, because the Herning Blue Fox budget will be hard-pressed to simply cover the insurance on his existing contract with the Senators. Regin has had difficulty explaining what the lockout is all about to the population back home.

For all that, Regin figures he’s one of the lucky ones, because he at least has a pseudo-competitive place to play.

That’s also what Senators goaltender Ben Bishop was thinking, having signed an American Hockey League contract Thursday to play with the Binghamton Senators for the duration of the lockout. After spending the previous five seasons, believing he had worked his way out of the minor leagues for good, Bishop is back where he started. And he’s in a more comfortable place than 80 per cent of his NHL colleagues.

That’s the geography. The history lesson, you ask? That’s easy. Those who forget the past – the 2004-05 lockout that cost the NHL an entire season – are condemned to repeat it.

 

Tags: ,

What do you think? Leave a comment