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It's judgement day, people.
Two months ago, September 15th felt like it would take ages to arrive. Surely a 60-day window for which the NHL and NHLPA could sit down in their New York boardrooms would be sufficient time to complete all necessary paperwork.
Instead, fans are about to be exposed to the leagues third work stoppage in the last 18 years.
The battle of billionaires vs. millionaires has now reached a stalemate. Both sides feel they have made the concessions required to finalize a deal and that their opponent is being callous, unreasonable and selfish.
Here's Gary Bettman, via the Vancouver Sun:
"Listen, nobody wants to make a deal and play hockey more than I do, OK? This is what I do. This is what my life is about in terms of how I spend most of my waking hours. This is really hard. And so you only get involved in this situation when you understand what the issues are and you know you’re doing the right thing for the long-term stability of our game and our sport. This is very hard and I feel terrible about it."
Gary Bettman -- tortured soul.
A man that wanted so desperately to have a new CBA signed before an imminent lockout took place that he and his ownership group offered a ridiculous and insulting offer to the players which set the negotiating process back three weeks.
But he loves hockey, just in case you ever doubted it.
Though in fairness to Gary, it takes two to tango in crucial business meetings such as these.
Donald Fehr has been equally as relentless in his pursuit of benevolence for the players.
From the National Post:
"If it comes to that, it’s a choice which was made, or is being made as we speak. It’s not a requirement. It’s not something anybody has to do. If that’s the way it’s going to be, then unfortunately, that’s the way it’s going be. But if we’re interested in trying to find a way to reach an agreement, and to make sure that the NHL goes forward with the players, and that the fans don’t lose any hockey games, then maybe it’s a choice that ought to be reconsidered."
Stubborn and unflinching, Fehr will have you know that any forthcoming lockout does not behoove the players. And while he's right in the sense that there will be no pay and no play for those the NHLPA represents, to try to absolve all blame in this utter failure of a process is laughable.
In bargaining agreements such as these, posturing and PR relations through the media are deemed more important than actually sitting in a room, laying out ones differences and then settling them as best you can.
And it's bullshit.
Fans could care less of what HRR actually defines. Or that the NHL and NHLPA both feel the need to step in front of microphones in an attempt to wash their hands of any blame. In reality, both parties are wrong.
Like the offspring of an abusive marriage, fans are forced to sit in waiting while mom and dad duke it out over our custody.
Gary Bettman is no fool. He knows very well who the sucker in this whole bargaining agreement is; it's us.
Try as we might, we know that when the lights of 30 NHL arenas across North American are re-illuminated, we'll all come crawling back to the sport that impassions us like moths to a flame.
And that's the saddest part of all.
Pray for a miracle.