The lockout is here and, to be honest, we're finding it hard to get mad about it. A lot of people are really angry, which we understand, but it's tough for us to really be mad about the lockout. Are we annoyed by the whole thing? Yes. Do we hope NHL hockey comes back soon? Of course. But we're not mad.
It's hard for us to be mad because we're powerless. Every fan is. There's nothing that any hockey fan can do in this situation except wait. Hockey fans have no say in this matter. None. It's not about us.
That's why whenever either side mentions how they feel for the fans and how the other side should just give in to avoid hurting the fans, we feel a little sick. That's when we get mad. That's when we feel anger.
We don't know very much about the CBA or the negotiations surrounding it, but we're pretty sure there's nothing in it about the fans. A collective bargaining agreement doesn't lower ticket prices, or make games more accessible or add more NHL content to TV or the Internet. It's all about money. At its most basic, that's what this lockout is about. If it was about player safety or league rules or anything real, we could possibly see ourselves siding with one side or another. But it's not. It's about who gets what money and when and how much.
That's why both players and owners were agreeing to long-term, expensive contracts in the dying hours of the old, apparently "broken" system. Because those deals benefited them. This is all about how players and owners can make more money. That's all it is.
So when players or agents or Gary Bettman himself says anything about feeling bad for the fans, we know it's just PR spin to make themselves look better. If either side really wanted to play hockey as bad as they're both saying they do, they would have reached an agreement by now. Or, at the least, they would have taken some important steps towards reaching an agreement. But they haven't done that. They've both made weak attempts to look like they're negotiating, but that's it. They've both submitted proposals that only benefit their side. They haven't even really negotiated at all. Instead, they've both tried to prove that they're 100% right and that the other side is 100% wrong. They're not trying to negotiate. They're trying to win.
Have you noticed that whenever someone pleads for an end to the lockout "for the fans" they still want the other side to give in? No one is willing to give up anything themselves in order to get the league back. And that's why we are where we are.
There has been hardly any give and take and instead there's been a lot of passing blame. It seems like no one wants to actually fix anything... they just want to be right and they just want to win. We wouldn't be surprised if they spent more time, money and effort on working the media and the fans and preparing public relations campaigns to make themselves look good than they did on actually trying to reach an agreement.
Ken Dryden spelled this out wonderfully in the Globe and Mail a few days ago:
We have become better and better at difference. We hire more experts to push our own case. It’s their job to win, their only job. Nothing else matters. It’s black and white, winning and losing, winners and losers. Grey is boring. Conviction is good. Compromise is weak. Compromisers are spineless. The media decide what’s worthy of attention. The media love difference. There’s drama in difference, drama in conflict. There is no bigger interest. There are only interests.
So we fight for as much as we can get.
What are the losers – the fans – to do? They could try to stand up together, develop a strategy, stay home from games. As unlikely as that is, big surprises happen, and the strong are never as strong as they seem.
Or the players and owners might say, this is going nowhere good. The way we live isn’t about total victory, about being the only one left standing, the only one who wins. An economy, a society, politics, sports don’t work if only a few win. With no overwhelming issues, NHL owners and players have agreed to disagree.
They need to learn how to agree to agree.
This isn't about the fans at all. It's about money and being right and improving your image and winning these "negotiations." It's about taking your puck and going home because you're worried you might not win and you might look bad. Don't pretend like it's anything else.
You can take hockey away from us and we'll deal with it... but patronizing us and insulting our intelligence while playing to our emotions and genuine love for the game at the same time? That's what really hurts.
We'll see you when you grow up.