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Lockout Theater of the Absurd

They’re meeting at 11! No, noon! Wait, they might meet at 1! 1:30! 2!

We have until January 2 to fix this or there won’t be a 48 game season, and that’s the minimum the league will sanction. January 5! No, wait, the 11th! We have to start on the 19th! Omg!

Meanwhile, fans are both angry and apathetic, NBC is furious, Molson is going to sue, Kraft took their money elsewhere, Sid’s talking about going to Europe, and five minutes down the road from Larry’s house is the new Marriott that was built partly to deal with the All Star Game that won’t be happening any time soon.

And the poor hockey writers. The league is winning! The union is winning! A deal should be easy! A deal is impossible!

Here’s what I love. Every blog post about the state of the negotiations includes tons of comments from people who say, “Who cares? Why are you writing about this? No one cares anymore.”

Oh, yeah? Then why are you slogging your way through yet another piece about escrow and caps and transition payments and pensions, and then taking the time to comment about how much you don’t care? Obviously you care, bro.

Here’s what I expect today. I expect the PA to come back with a full proposal, addressing things that will piss the league off and cause them to say, “But we told you we didn’t want you to do that! What part of take it or leave it do you not understand?” Especially if they suddenly throw in making future expansion and relocation fees part of HRR.

And then it could go either way. The league will either say, “Okay, cool, let us look at what you’ve given us and we’ll get back to you. If we have any questions, Bill will give Steve a call. We can have ‘informational conversations.'”

They could, you know, negotiate.

Or Gary could throw another fit and accuse Don of not negotiating in good faith, pull the whole 288 pages off the table and stomp away (again), and Wednesday the union will fill a disclaimer of interest and we’ll all go to court. I’ll admit there’s a part of me that wants to see what happens if it goes that way, but only a small part. It may be worth it in the long run, but the ensuing “every player is now a free agent, every team is now a separate entity, everything anybody has ever done is illegal” chaos would be kind of apocalyptic.

What great theater it would be, though.

Here’s my suggestions based on what’s on the table: Settle on a salary cap of $64m for next season, which is halfway between the $60m the league wants and the $67 the players want. Cap escrow. Have the one-time amnesty buyouts come from the league’s share of HRR. That gives everybody time to figure out how they’re going to fit under the cap – decreasing it from 57% of HRR to 50% is a big drop to deal with. Although part of me doesn’t feel sorry for the teams that signed the massive contracts that are so much a part of the problem – I mean, it’s not like they didn’t have fair warning that this was coming. I thought that’s what GMs do – find ways to circumvent the rules so that things get so screwed up the league thinks a lockout is the only way to solve their problems. Sorry, I mean, so that they can fit under a salary cap.

What do I think should really happen? I think revenue sharing should increase to at least 20%. And I think they should let them go to the damn Olympics. You don’t want to shut your business down for two weeks every four years? How about the fourteen weeks you’re going on now?

We’ll see. Don Fehr has played this masterfully, which is what he was hired to do. Every time the league said “this is our best offer, take it or leave it or we’re pulling it off the table,” Don has waited them out until they’ve put a better offer on the table. But time is running out, and I think, while he’s served the players well, now it’s time for the players to be selfish enough to stop fighting for the future and to think of themselves, right now, this season, at this point in time. It’s time for them to be on the ice again.

tl;dr Don’t fuck it up this time.

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