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Collective Bonehead Agreement.
October 8, 2004

by Bill Hogan


The 2004-05 National Hockey League season opens next week. Or, at least, it was supposed to begin on October 13. That's not going to happen. It seems that the NHL is in the midst of a "work stoppage." The players will tell you that the owners are locking them out. The owners will tell you that they don't have the kind of money the players are looking for.

I've heard that it boils down to a team salary cap issue. I don't know the specifics of the disagreement because, frankly, I don't care enough to keep up with the details of this mess. Do you?


If you do, you are in the minority of American sports fans. If there ever was a convention of die-hard NHL fanatics, they'd have a hard time filling the back room at Cheer's, let alone the FleetCenter – home of the Boston Bruins.

I don't know who are the bigger idiots, the National Hockey League owners or the players and their union representatives. They're arguing over millions of dollars in salaries and revenues. If the season doesn't start soon, their entire existence is in jeopardy. And if this thing drags out to the point where it's necessary to cancel the season, the NHL will be studied by future generation the way Dinosaurs are now.

I'm not the sharpest blade in the skate rack, but it doesn't take Ross Geller, or any other Paleontologist to figure out that this sport doesn't generate enough support, interest or commercial endorsement to survive a lost season.

You'd think these millionaire owners would realize that. You'd think these millionaire players would come to the obvious conclusion that a half a loaf is better than none. The average salary in the NHL is $1.7 million. Not bad when you play a sport that doesn't even measure a blip on the radar screen when compared to the NFL, MLB or NBA.

In 1919, the Stanley Cup was cancelled after five games with Montreal and Seattle tied at 2 wins, 2 losses and 1 tie. Both teams were part of an epidemic break out of influenza. Anyone who's ever had the flu can understand.

If the experts are correct, no teams will compete for the Stanley Cup this season. That's just sick. There is no excuse for NHL owners and players not resolving this matter as soon as possible. There's no reason they can't come to some kind of agreement for the sake of the sport.

Then again, I really don't care if there is a hockey season or not. Which is exactly what they should be discussing at the next contract meeting; not salaries, not salary caps, but who is going to watch when the players finally make their way back to the ice.

I'll miss hockey about as much as I miss "Friends." Hey, it was a nice sitcom, it made me laugh, if it was still on Thursday nights at eight o'clock, I'd watch; but if it's not on, I'll find something else to amuse myself.

This isn't baseball or football. I'd miss baseball and football. I'd go as far as to say that I'd pine for baseball or football. I read that this is the third "work stoppage" in NHL history. Really? I don't remember the other two. Do you?

I remember the baseball strike of 1994. October just wasn't the same without two Major League teams battling in the World Series. I remember the 1987 NFL season when replacement players took the field for the first couple of games – what a disaster. I remember the strike-shortened nine game season in 1982. Sixteen teams made the NFL playoffs that year, and my team wasn't one of them.

But I don't remember the first two times that the NHL had a "work stoppage." And, unless you have season tickets to the Devils and paint your face before every home game, I'm sure you can't fill me in.

No baseball or no football is tragic. No NHL season? It hits me about as hard as the series finally of "Dawson's Creek" did. Sorry to see it go, but no great loss. A league that was already hanging by a string should take a long, hard look at the big picture.

Just about everybody south of Niagra Falls can get through the day without watching a hockey game. That fact alone should scare NHL owners and players into finding some middle ground and settling this thing.


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