Winter Classic cancelled, NHL's gothic hamster wheel turns unabated

Winter Classic cancelled, NHL's gothic hamster wheel turns unabated
November 2, 2012, 5:16 pm
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The National Hockey League announced today that because the children keep giving them sass, nobody can go to the fair in January, because there ain't gonna be no fair. And if nobody can go to the fair because the fairgrounds have been closed, you can probably figure spring break is canceled too, and so are all those end-of-school parties.

Which is the properly demeaning of way of saying the league trotted out Vice-Bettman Bill Daly Friday to announce the cancellation of the Winter Classic, the combination All-Star GameOpening Daytrade show that is really none of those things. It is for them merely a season premiere to a show that the owners now dont actually want to stage. And if you dont want to stage a play, you dont really need the actors, or the first act, do you?

By now, though, theres no longer any reason for you to get mad about this new development, or the cancellation of the season that will follow. You all saw it coming, even you blindly optimistic ones. Thats the beauty of a flawlessly executed plan even the collateral damage ends up whistling in admiration.

Because ultimately, thats what this is. A flawlessly executed plan by men who own hockey teams but dont really care all that much whether hockey is actually produced in their factories. And why should you, the collateral damage, care more about something than the people who allegedly are in charge of production? That is a level of insanity that makes even German philosophers blanch.

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And buy me no buts about how much you love the game. Everybody loves the game, or says they do, but when you, the average consumer, says it, it makes you sound like a mark to them. Theyre banking on you still loving it when this little dance is done this summer, because thats how its happened before.

Thats the amazing thing here. This has happened before, in 2004, with all the same steps that led to it. Its not a matter of nobody learning the lessons of 2004. Its a matter of them knowing the steps, enjoying their familiarity, and hitting every one of them in order.

You know what they are. The initial insulting offer, the counter-proposal dismissed out of hand, the exchange of We want to talk but they dont neener-neeners, the army of media policy wonks who haul out power point presentations and create ways that an equitable deal can be forged (while forgetting that an equitable deal is the last thing any of the principals wants), then the wringing of hands, the fake-regretful press releases, the boo-boo-kitty faces and then a resumption the next year to much signing and praise for reasonable men reaching reasonable solutions.

Which of course is just the manure train making its scheduled end-of-the-day stop.

We are here because the high-revenue owners want the players to cover the low-revenue owners shortfalls. We are here because the owners in the middle dont have the stones to organize and challenge the status quo in their own organizations. We are here because we were here before, and will be here again because we are here now. It is a gothic hamster wheel, and everybody spins until the dizziness overcomes them and they need to sit down.

This is how the whole CBA negotiation board game is meant to be played, with a mean-spirited sameness that the outside world should already recognize. This is not and never has been about two sides striking a deal that makes everyone happy, but one side striking the other side with blunt objects until victory through pay garnishment is achieved.

In 2005, when the last CBA was struck, the owners were very happy because the union was left in shards. Then individual owners started figuring out ways to circumvent their own deal, the wealthy and committed ones spent to their capacity by preying on the ones who had no capacity, and the deal collapsed under the added strain. And this deal will too, not long after it is forged this coming summer, for the very same reasons.

And thats the last thing to remember here. Deals fail because owners circumvent them, because greed and the competitive urges of the powerful are always mightier than a handshake and a signature. And well be doing this again in five years, or seven, or nine, depending on how long the principals want to rest up before the next go-round.

And you shouldnt get mad about that one, either, because you should know the book by now. After all, theyve made you read it three times in 18 years, and even you can digest Chaucer in Mandarin if immersed in it repeatedly.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com