Sunday, January 6, 2013

NHL hockey to resume... to sound of crickets chirping?

And so it ends. The battle of the greedheads was settled in the Big Apple minutes ago. The National Hockey League will have a much-shortened season of 48 or 50 games, starting in a few days. Neither the greedhead owners nor the lesser greedhead players are thrilled, so the new agreement must be what lawyers call a good compromise.

Speaking of lawyers, Jack Todd, writing in the Montreal Gazette, has some good comments about the role of the Jewish lawyer who precipitated the whole schemozzle. That would be Gary Bettman, the diminutive New Yorker who rises from the gutter looking even smaller than before. Here's  part of Todd's take.

One moment, it’s “take-it-or-leave-it, we’re outraged, this is unacceptable.” Then, after three or four weeks go by while Gary Bettman sulks like a spoiled child, the league comes back with, “well, what about if we try it this way?”

Begging the question: Why didn’t they simply stay at the negotiating table, 18 hours a day if necessary, until a deal was worked out? The answer, undoubtedly, lies in what has been a spectacularly erratic, Alice in Blunderland performance on Bettman’s part.

If his public appearances during this toxic lockout are anything to go by, Bettman is about as sane and grounded as Randy Quaid. [I love that line! Walt] While Donald Fehr [the American lawyer heading the players union] has remained cool, calm and collected throughout, Bettman often has been overheated, hysterical and scattered.

Perhaps even Bettman knows he has torched much of the league’s goodwill and momentum, and flushed at least $1.5 billion in revenue down the toilet for no reason at all. Bettman gambled that Fehr couldn’t keep the players behind him, and he lost. Big-time.

Bitchman is doomed. You read it here first, in Walt's "Prognostications for 2013". Lifetime pct .989.

And what of the fans? There will be great rejoicing on the frozen side of the 49th parallel today. But on the US side, Walt questions whether anyone has even noticed the absence of the best sport in the world. In most American markets (except maybe Boston) no-one cares about hockey until the end of the football season, which is only now coming into view. When the players return to the arenas of the sunbelt -- thank you, Mr. Bettman -- the reaction is likely to be, "Oh... Were you away?"

Further predictions: The NHL's players and owners will stagger through the abbreviated 2013 season, and come June (or possibly July) Lord Stanley's silverware will move to someplace other than Los Angeles. But... by the time the 2013-14 season opens in the fall, the NHL will have at least two fewer teams, with one of the remaining teams moved to Canada, where hockey matters. Lifetime pct still .989.

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