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NHL Owners Need to Reassess Their Role in Latest Lockout

September 16th, 2012 at 12:01 AM
By Paul Lane Sabres 101

Thanks for nothing, National Hockey League.

You still remember how horrible 2004-05 was. It stunk for you, losing so much interest from fans who lost the game for an entire season.

It stunk for the bars surrounding businesses, some of which had to shut down due to a lack of businesses, and the beer vendors who depended on the tips from those 41 home dates to make ends meet at home. They had to scrape for more work and subsist on peanut butter sandwiches while you sat on your millions of dollars and complained you needed millions more.

And it stunk for the fans who stuck with you, through thick and thin, while the mainstream sports media ridiculed you if they even bothered to mention you.

So what do those fans get? Squat. On the last day before the lockout began, league officials said Saturday there was no reason to return to the bargaining table with the players' union, as no meaningful movement would be made.

"I'm sure we will keep in touch in the coming days and schedule meetings to the extent they might be useful or appropriate," Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said. "We are sorry for where we are. Not what we hoped or expected."

Really? Not what you expected? When your boss, Commissioner Gary Bettman, threatens a year prior to today to lock players out if there's not a new deal, that's not what you expect? When it'd be quite easy to play without a deal for a year to ensure the game's stability but you refuse, this is not what you expect?

The players are not blameless, of course. They could have worked during last season on a deal instead of insisting talks not commence until after the Stanley Cup was awarded. And you make enough where you could take a salary rollback and not slaughter your portfolios.

But, owners, you already have the players give back more than one-fourth of their income in the last deal. That salaries exploded in subsequent seasons is no one's fault but your own (even you, Mr. Pegula – for as much excitement as you brought to Buffalo Sabres fans with your free-spending ways – overpaid for the players who delivered your team to ninth place in 2011-12). No one forced you to issue $100 million deals or 15-year contract terms. You did that of your own free will.

So if you're crying poverty now, look in the mirror.

The players are willing to give some money back. Yes, they can give more, but so can you. Any short-term salary hits you take will be off-set by revenue you generate if you don't postpone any games or – God forbid – force another season to be lost.

This is your third work stoppage in the past 18 years. You literally couldn't go one CBA without locking out players again. Sooner or late, you have to look in the mirror and accept the blame – for bloated salaries, for a game that's expanded beyond its means, for a league that struggles for respect and relevance.

There's a gun to the head of the NHL as a national entity. And the owners' hands are on the trigger. Do everyone a favor and lighten your grip. You don't seem to realize how serious you've made the situation.

Tags: Buffalo, Buffalo Sabres, Hockey, NHL

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