With word of the NHL lockout reaching the public's ear last week, a lot has been said. Some blame the owners for being unwilling to cooperate with the player's demands and for their greediness. Others blame the players for their own greediness and childish attitudes to the negotiations.
We hear from both sides. We hear from the commentators, the pundits, the "experts", and the fans who suffer the most from this needless squabble.
But what do we hear from the people who work behind the rink? You see, I'm gainfully employed by the Calgary Flames, who, to their credit, are fighting this round of the lockout. Specifically, I wash dishes for the all the fine diners lucky (and rich) enough to enjoy the fine foods served up at the 'Dome.
From September to May, you can earn a good $10,000 a year from just working the NHL games (Counting NHL, WHL, Concerts and various Catering functions, i pulled in just under $20k). For unskilled labour to support myself through my education, that's not a bad figure at all. And there's some pride to be had from the job, even as a washer of dishes. People ask me all the time, "What do you do for work, Ryan?" When I tell them I work at the 'Dome, you can almost see a glimmer of envy in their eyes.
There's also the ever present question "Well do you ever meet anyone famous?" Oh yes. Rock stars, hockey players, UFC fighters, pro wrestlers and all assorted groups of people who make far more money then I ever will. I've had the pleasure of shaking Ken King's hand, ate lunch with David Moss, and even Prime Minister Harper said "Hello," after I greeted him. The real famous people though are the people I work with everyday, the people who make it all happen for the stars and politicians. Ed the Usher, a veteran of the navy, Old Mike the noble security guard, His boss (and future star of Comedy Central) Rodney, The young kids from concessions, Some 1400-1500 people in all, who are as friendly and familiar as my own family. And not just Canadian hockey fans either. My own crew has 9 people, speaking 8 different languages.
Now our grumbles aside about lousy pay, suspect management, and our dissatisfaction with our team's absolutely dismal hockey playing ability, we all enjoy what we do, and we enjoy the prestige of our position.
But this lockout hurts everyone. Hours are cut, wages are lost, people quit and tempers flair. And for what? So a bunch of millionaires who work half as much as we do (and make 30x as much) can sit and complain that the "league" treats them unfairly. Somehow, the hockey team's woes have become our woes, and now we suffer the loss of income and joy of our work, while they play golf in the Bahamas. Well I'm sorry Mr. Millionaire, but your troubles don't pay my rent and tuition.
To be fair though, this can't all be blamed on the players. You think the owners care? Not when those fat checks keep coming. You'd think as a business owner, you might want to try hard to make sure your workers have, you know, work.
But I suppose that the sound of a $30M bank draft drowns out the cries of a dishwasher trying to make ends meet. And so, I do wish the best for the Calgary Flames & ownership on their trips to warm islands and $100 dollar plated dinners. I hope when it comes time for that plate to get washed, you remember how badly you screwed the dishwashers, security guards, ushers, concessions kids and cleaners back home. And all because you want an extra $20M to play Hockey next year.