Well, I guess time is almost up, isn't it?
If you don't come to some kind of agreement soon with the NHL the entire 2004-2005 season is a complete washout. The NHL, which is already a laughingstock league in many sports fans' eyes, will become the first major professional sports league to miss an entire season due to labor disputes. And you're just going to sit back and let this happen, aren't you? Oh sure you claim you're working hard to come to an agreement with the league. But you'll never agree to a salary cap. That's the main thing they want. They'll never agree to anything unless there's a salary cap. Don't you understand that? Don't you understand that if you don't agree to a salary cap there will be no 2005 Stanley Cup winner? That there will be a big giant asterisk in stat books? That there will be a huge black eye, a colossal black mark on the league, on the owners, AND the players? Is that what you really want? Do you want the '04-'05 non-season to be remembered in infamy as the year that major league hockey died? Because to come back from this it will take nothing short of a resurrection. All the progress that the NHL has made in recent years to legitimize the league, to someday be on par with the NBA or MLB or NFL (what little of it has been made) will be obliterated and you all be back to square one.
I understand that hockey players, just like everybody else, want to make as much money as possible. They are no greedier than any other human being. I would love to make a lot more than I do even though I live fairly comfortably now. Some would say I am greedy because even though I have a good life I'd like to make as much as some of my friends do. I get that. But on the other side of that coin, if I barge up to my boss and demand a raise, demand he pay me way more than he can afford to pay me, he'll tell me no. And if I say if I am going to continue to work for the company I need more money, he'd show me the door! Well guess what? I think the NHL is about ready to do that.
Sorry if I agree with the league on this one, but the fact that the league as a whole loses hundreds of millions of dollars a year is inescapable. You can't spin that away. You can come up with all the charts, Power Point presentations, and excuses you want to, but it is a fact. Players cannot be paid beyond what the market dictates they should. If the NHL were a corporation it would have went under long ago and all the players would be looking for other jobs. I understand that the owners created the problem. They are the ones who threw all that crazy money at the players in the first place (and some blame, in my humble opinion, go to the agents, too, whose goal is to get Doug Weight money for mediocre players - see Joe Murphy). But that does not change the fact that the league cannot continue to run in its current economic system. I know I'm borrowing a phrase right from the league's rhetoric there, but it's true!
If this season doesn't happen, look for the league to declare an impasse this summer. Then they don't have to bargain with your collective asses and they'll proceed to hire scabs, bring up triple-A. The maybe some current NHL players will get tired of playing in Europe and come back without your blessing. That will bust your Great Player's Union. And you know what I say to that? If you guys don't swallow your pride and accept a salary cap and we don't get at least a shortened season, I hope it happens! I hope to God it happens! Screw you. All of you heading the NHLPA, and all your members - your Keith Tkachuks and your John LeClairs who get paid around $10 million to sleep during the playoffs - can all kiss my ass if there's no season, OK? I don't care if you ever come back. Go play in Europe and get paid what you're actually worth for the rest of your careers! I know you've probably already heard this a hundred thousand times, but here's one more: who you're really hurting are the fans. Without US none of you would have a job! And you're giving us the middle finger, dropping trou and mooning us, denying us the most exciting sport ever that we wait all summer, each summer for with passionate anticipation. You're saying "screw you guys, you're not getting NHL hockey unless we all get paid ten million dollars a season. Sorry." Well screw you back! That's how most of us feel, I don't know if you realize that yet (maybe you do if you've gotten fifty thousand emails like this already). Everybody I talk to feels the same way. You know who you're also hurting? Not the owners. They're making more money this year without hockey than they did last year when they had it (chew on THAT for a while). No, you're hurting the little guys. The hot dog vendors. The bar and grill owners and workers who depend on revenue from hockey fans to get them through the cold, bitter winter. The rink workers. The Zamboni drivers. People like me who made $3,000 extra a year selling programs and doing cartoons for it (www.jeffio.com), money which I really could've used this year since my first child was just born! Do you ever think about THESE people? At all? Any? EVER?!
Well, I don't know. There's always baseball. Maybe we should all abandon being hockey fans. There's some exciting indoor soccer going on. The St. Louis Steamers are loving this NHL work stoppage! All the Blues billboards are down and theirs are up in their place.
In closing, I'd like to say that I hope these new meetings I'm hearing about will be productive and we will get an abbreviated season. But like I said, if we don't, fuck you. I hope scabs and current players that jump the NHLPA sinking ship play next season and we never have to hear about your selfish organization ever again.
p.s. And if this does continue into next season, forget it. I'm done with hockey. Go Steamers!