A Sports Fan Speaks  

Collective disregard

The next time a man stands in front of you and a gathered group of like-minded souls and says; “This is the hill we will die on,” I truly hope that either a) Your Commanding Officer is a terrible evaluator of situational odds or b) it is 8 years into the future, the NHL has opted out of the current CBA and Commissioner-in-Waiting Bill “Mr. Anderson” Daly is permanently plugged into a Matrix of press conferences and negotiations that his Evil Genius and soon-to-be-former boss has created. In those cases, you can hope that the former is lying and you can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the latter is. Such is the world of Collective Bargaining that we live in as Sports Fans, where every uttered syllable represents an angle, ploy, tactic or strategy with the express intent of finagling a million dollars here or a billion dollars there out of the other side on some sticking point so that finally, after months of intense bloviating and manure tossing, an agreement can be reached – an agreement dare I say that TSN’s Bob McKenzie and I could have worked out over a cup of clam chowder on our lunch hours in July last year - assuming that Big Bird and a few other Muppets were there to dot the i’s and cross the t’s of course.

You may be getting the sense that, like most of the NHL Fan-Base, I’m not popping the Cipes and putting the rush order on my Centre Ice package and while I commend those who’ve recognized this tidbit of subtlety, I will hold no ill will to those whose senses have been needlessly dulled by an over-exposure to the negotiation process and by the willful and continued disregard of all interests Fan-related by the NHL ownership group and the NHL Players Association. The process mercifully ended at about 6 a.m. Sunday morning after a 16-hour ‘marathon’ negotiating session which thankfully involved Deputy Director for Mediation Services for the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (seriously?!) Scot Beckenbaugh – who undoubtedly has the world’s worst business cards – acting as the voice of reason in a debate where egotistical selfishness had long sense replaced the fundamental principal of “Welfare of the Game.”

After all this, here are the numbers that have been made available for our perusal so far. We have a 10-year CBA with an option for either side to jump ship after 8 years. This of course is another way of saying that there is a better chance we see Lance Armstrong win the Tour de France again than there is of making it to year 9 but c’est la vie. Player contracts will be restricted to 7 years unless they are re-signing with the same team in which case the term can be 8 years. If you look closely at the NHL Treasure Map you will see a spot marked “5 Year Hill” and rumour has it that is where Outlaw Bill Daly died… The salary cap of $70.2M this season will fall to $64.3M next year, with the salary floor remaining at $44M and each team will be awarded 2 compliance buyouts – call this the Scott Gomez/Rick DiPietro Rule – in order to stay under the 2013-14 ceiling. The key issue here being that these buyouts will count against player share of the now infamous Hockey Related Revenue and not against the cap itself. This allows a kind of General Manager Mulligan on the kind of contracts that made Garth Snow (I’m trying to stay weather relevant here) a household name…assuming you live in a household where Dumb and Dumber was once regarded as an Academy Award snub and you sometimes wonder how ESPN’s First Take with Skip Bayless hasn’t won a Daytime Emmy.

Eventually, when the new CBA is ratified and released and reads like an unedited somewhat ‘wordy’ version of Ayn Rands “Atlas Shrugged” meets the Fiscal Cliff, some if not all Fans will most likely have ended their own personal lockouts, strong in the knowledge that non-attendance of the pre-season games made a powerful statement to all concerned! Allow me a moment here to urge all Fans to give their collective heads a shake and before you rush out and drop your hard earned dollar on the Ryan Kesler autographed Diving Speedo or pre-order the equally rare Toronto Maple Leaf Playoff Package, take a moment and reflect on the 113 days that you were just subjected to.

Then take a moment to remember that Christmas when you got your first stick, remember the shouts of “Car” and grabbing the nets, remember those home-made rinks in Port Alberni, in Yorktown, in Sarnia, in Rouyn-Noranda, in Summerside, remember your first hat, first jersey, first game and then take a moment to realize that you, the Fan, is and always will be the most important part of the game. And they forgot that…for 113 days the Fan has been an after-thought, an also-ran, an abstract notion at the other end of a demanding 24-7 media whose lenses were often clouded by their own agendas. You see, that $3.3B business is in your hands and in your hearts and how and when you choose to forgive is up to you but neither side can be allowed to forget or we will find ourselves just shy of a decade older and enduring déjà vu all over again…

Until next time Kelowna, it is apparently Game On…

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About the Author

Sean McEachern is above all else a Sports Fan. Originally from Ottawa, Sean was educated at Strathallan School in Scotland. A former golf professional and graduate of the San Diego Golf Academy, Sean and his fiancee settled in Kelowna in 2010. A hospitality industry 'lifer', Sean is a sports trivia enthusiast and discussionist and is currently a staff writer at www.freethesportsman.com and at Okanagan Collection magazine. Sean recently welcomed his daughter Keira to the world on July 27th. 

Follow Sean on Twitter @sportsfanspeaks and feel free to comment on any stories at www.asportsfanspeaks.com.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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