Give Michael Grange's piece a read. If my analysis of his work is correct, the NHLPA's just-released CBA counter offer is them saying, "Hey, we like it how it is, but we'll take some smaller, broader cuts of things that we don't operate or control on a day-to-day basis because, 1) that's what you wanted, Evil Owner Empire, and 2) this will make us look nice."
Sheep in wolf's clothing. That's what Grange referred to it as, even though he seemed to side with the players in their newest struggle to keep hockey going for one more, Goddamn year. We all know what happened last time, when the league shut down for a full season. Some players' careers were ruined (which will surely happen this time to players who are hanging onto their prime like the Sedin twins, Henrik Zetterberg, and Ilya Kovalchuk), it re-shaped the game and benefited only those who had yet to enter (which none of these players are now, since they're all technically veterans and professionals, whether they've played one year or 20), and it was the first time since Mike Milbury shook and threatened a 12-year-old in Massachusetts last year that players and their crowds felt the same kind of emotion: emptiness.
But, the game has changed, and maybe it's time for hockey fans -- specifically those in Canada -- to do something they've never done: side with the players.
With all due respect to Canadians, our values of socialism and unity are flawed. At least, in this case.
In the United States, they do the Occupy thing and sportswriters throw the gamut of their angry "WE CAN'T LOSE FOOTBALL!" and "DON'T GET RID OF THE NBA; BILL SIMMONS IS STILL WATCHING" reactions at the owners. You know, the owners: the hundred-millionaires and billionaires who own the damn league, but still try and pinch pennies from their employees.
In Canada, fans have always chided the players, because it's easier. Too much money, and Not worth it, and even, YOU SHOULD WANT TO PLAY THIS GAME FOR FREE! MY SON WOULD!
Even when they "Occupy," Canadians just join in for the tent weed and direct their ire at normal business owners. Because, you know, money is bad.
Canadians, while they're decent with money and they understand it, are fatally blue-collar by nature. It works when it's hot dogs and Kokanee around a large family barbecue. It's different on Bay Street.
(*Yes, I'm generalizing, and I apologize, but you have to admit: Canada's Occupy lacked the teeth of Wall Street's, didn't it?)
For some reason, Canadians have historically thought of the players as the ones with too much money. It happens in countries where there's only one sport and not enough people. Everyone has the same dream, so you never look with bitter(sweet) eyes at their bosses or employers.
Instead, you blame the guy who has the job you always wanted, and then get mad when he won't do it for the salary of a grape picker.
It happened when the NHLPA was first formed, when Red Wings' El Hefe Jack Adams clashed with, publicly denounced, and then traded Hall of Famer Ted Lindsay because the left winger was trying to organize a union. 1957 Michigan was 2012 Wisconsin, apparently. Adams blasted Lindsay in the Detroit media, complaining about a salary he never asked for and running his name through the mud.
Every player on Detroit who was a part of Lindsay's NHLPA efforts was traded simultaneously (including Glenn Hall, the goalie who played 502 straight games and set the NHL's only unbeatable record, who was sent to Chicago with Lindsay) in some kind of massive, sweeping, Canadian witch hunt.
The public bought it. And, it's a good thing they didn't get the NHLPA formed right away, because Doug Harvey died in 1989 after living in a railway car.
In 2004, the song remained much the same, even after 50 years and all that was learned. Part of it has been the unrealistically bullish way that the NHLPA has gone about its business, which is not unlike the annoyingly naive business acumen of players unions in the NFL, NBA, and MLB.
But, for whatever, reason, Canadians and hockey fans have tended to direct their glare at the players. They misguidedly view their occasional idiocy and always-present lack of financial knowledge with blame.
After all, it's the owners who continue to throw around ridiculously high-priced, long-term contract, even in August's dog days as the clock is winding down. Wasn't Max Pacioretty just offered a seven-year contract worth $30 million? It would be shocking if any Americans not named "Greg Wyshynski" or "Katie Baker" even know who he is. Sidney Crosby just signed a 12-year, $104-million extension, Shea Weber will be paid $27 million next year, and Ryan Suter and Zach Parise are apparently worth 13 years and $98 million.
All the while, hockey fans have thought, "Gee, these owners are crazy." But, when the contract curtain is lifted, who's to bet their opinion will change. The players will get the brunt of the blame, because they have less of the microphone and unity exists with a union. It doesn't exist among management. Players have to remain quiet, while owners can say whatever they want.
And, they will. Most likely, they'll try and suck some money back into their own pockets, even while they've been throwing it around like a 17-year-old who has just discovered one dollar bills and strippers at the same time.
How can any owner realistically blame any one of their players (i.e. employees) for the league's current contract fiasco.
It's like they're a bunch of drug dealers who are mad at cocaine.
That's just the Canadian way, but let's hope we learn from this one. Or, at least, that we make an effort to.
*This was originally posted on White Cover Magazine.
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