What’s left after NHL lockout?

Mother. Of. God.


We’ve gone from from passion about hockey to hope for its return to disillusionment to disgust.

If you guys can’t figure it out, why should we use up our emotional investment in a process that seems incredibly petty?

You can see both sides of the dispute in this no-end-in-sight stalemate between the NHL’s players and owners. But here’s what keeps eating at me: When there’s a resolution at some point, what’s left?

In all of these disputes, it’s always “just business.” This one is bitter and angry. How is there any sort of partnership any time soon between players and owners who ultimately need each other?

Having been through lockouts before, there’s history that time heals all wounds. The game has bounced back.

That doesn’t seem like it’s going to be automatic this time.

Gary Bettman has all the appeal of influenza right now. He has a valid point, however, that the union seems to be presenting moving targets in terms of what they need to have in a new collective bargaining agreement.

We absolutely need this. Now we need this. And now this is the most important thing required.

The ownership side, which made some concessions this week that everyone figured they eventually would, has its heels dug in on length of the new CBA (longer) and the length of player contracts (shorter).

Deputy commissioner Bill Daly referred to those issues as . . . dramatic pause here . . . “a hill we will die on.”

Look, there’s no getting around the emotions of a drawn out negotiation like this one. But a “hill we will die on?” C’mon.

The pettiness reached a new level when the owners who felt they were close to getting this all resolved, pulled all their offers off the table. Again. That table must have scratches with all the action it’s seen — good and bad.

I exchanged text messages with an NHL front-office executive yesterday who reported that he was very optimistic. I’m told teams were actually holding meetings yesterday, planning practice schedules and what-if scenarios with a return date of games expected at Dec. 20.

All that went “poof” Thursday night.

There has to be some value to both sides about the damage being done to the game. If you both proudly stick to your guns but there’s no one to watch your teams play when the dispute is eventually resolved, what’s been accomplished? 

This is where Bettman has to be accountable. Granted, a commissioner now works at the pleasure of ownership. He’s their employee. I get that. But the commissioner also must be a bridge-builder between the two sides.

It’s certainly noticed that when Bettman and NHLPA chief Donald Fehr removed themselves from the process and let owners and players talk among themselves, the first real traction in the process seemed to be established.

This has always been a billion-dollar game of chicken. Who will blink first?

The players now will never get back the money for which they’re fighting. Those dollars are gone.

The owners might never get back the fans, who feel abandoned again.

At the core of this dispute is this: The commissioner has always been about helping the owners who aren’t making a go of it, in non-traditional hockey markets. Trying to grow the game there.

If they cared only a little before this, how much do they care now?