You know, the saddest part of this weekend scramble by the NHL and the players to re-start the season, is that it shows just how vulnerable the sport was to the whims and intellectual limits of two men: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA Executive Director Bob Goodenow.
If you took either man out of the equation, there would probably be a hockey season right now. The inability of the two men to talk and to reason meant the death of the NHL.
It’s really interesting. If you give a child a difficult task, like cleaning his room or doing his math homework, his first response will probably be to complain it’s too hard. I’m not a developmental psychologist by any means, but it seems children lack the sophistication to start a project and determine exactly where the difficulties lie. Hopefully, as they mature, they’ll learn that just giving up isn’t the best way to accomplish a goal. Hopefully, as they mature, they learn to articulate just what part of a problem is difficult. Goodenow and Bettman never reached that level of maturity. They never got beyond the “This is too hard” phase of solving the problem of negotiating the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The NHL and the NHLPA trusted their leadership, even when all signs told them not to, and it’s probably irreparably destroyed hockey. Hockey will most likely lose its national TV presence in the states. Hockey will most likely lose major sponsors. Hockey will definitely lose a ton of fans.
You can blame a lot of factors for the lockout, but it basically came down to immaturity. The major players in the lockout were too immature to see their way past it. And even when the game’s stars, even when its gods, put everything on the line to compensate for the lackings of their leaders, a deal still couldn’t be done. In the end, it was more important for Bettman to stonewall Goodenow and for Goodenow to mess with Bettman, than for the Stanley Cup to be awarded.
The media reported the season was uncanceled because it was so freaking crazy to cancel it in the first place. Logic and maturity said the two leaders would find a way to do what was best for both sides. Unfortunately, both sides were led by men who had a complete inability to see past their own tortured, personal issues.
It wasn’t about solving the lockout this weekend. If it was about solving the lockout, it would have been solved months ago. It might have even been prevented. Nope. The flurry of negotiating this weekend was about two men continuing to refuse to deal with each other — nothing more and nothing less. This weekend was the culmination of two men ignoring ignoring their constituencies, ignoring hockey, and ignoring hockey fans, so they could have one last chance to complain that this lockout problem was too hard.
If I were a player or an owner, I’d fire my respective leader and work toward rebuilding hockey from the ground-up next season. Both sides can see the NHL is in shambles and salary caps don’t matter any more than a wreath does on a burning house.
Everyone except for Goodenow and Bettman now see that the NHL has no choice but to get the game back on the ice.
It’s time to let the adults fix hockey.