EVERY TIME I consider quitting the sports commentary business - a notion forwarded by many, many readers many, many times - the National Hockey League comes along with one of its delightfully cockamamie we-might-lose-an-entire-season labor negotiations.
(To be honest, the only time I give my undivided attention to the NHL is when it's having employer-employee issues. As it turns out, the NHL goes into labor turmoil about as often as an Antonio Cromartie girlfriend goes into labor.)
It appears the regular season might be delayed. This is a blessing in disguise, because nobody - nobody - ever wants the NHL season to open Oct. 11.
I feel badly for the union. The league is attempting to cut back the players' share of revenues, abolish players' rights to salary arbitration and limit free agency.
It is as if management is trying to turn back the clock. But it's one thing to turn back the clock, and it's a whole another thing to buy a case of sundials on eBay.
This is the thing about management:
The league reported record revenues of $3.3 billion last season, then turns around and tells its workers to take a pay cut. I don't want to go all Eugene V. Debs on you, but it makes one a bit suspicious about the cash-strapped captains of industry running the joint.
(Of course, this raises the age-old question: How do you fairly divide three billion large? Of course, the answer: If you've got the key to the safe deposit box, don't make a copy for the other guy.)
As usual, the players don't seem to have a lot of bargaining chips or sway on matters. Okay, let's be more blunt. I have two words for NHL players: NO LEVERAGE. The NHL owners are willing to lock 'em out and lose the games.
(Now, if canines went on strike just before the Westminster Dog Show, then you've got a problem. What, you think you can find replacement Lhasa Apsos or scab Pomeranians in a jiffy?)
At least the NHL Players Association, I guess, is in a better position than the NFL Referees Association. I've got three words for the refs: ABSOLUTELY NO LEVERAGE. The only chance those fellas have is to catch Roger Goodell in bed with a Taliban mistress.
Talks between NHL owners and players began in June, to no avail. Here is a transcript of the negotiations' first morning session at NHL headquarters in New York:
NHL: We're going to cut your pay.
NHLPA: No, you're not.
NHL: Yes, we are.
NHLPA: No way, Jose.
Men at door [holding bag]: The donuts are here.
NHL: All right, we'll recess until 1 p.m.
Here is a transcript of the first afternoon session:
NHL: Okay, where were we? That's right - you people are taking a pay cut.