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The Malik Report

Canceling the Winter Classic turns this lockout ‘nuclear’

I'm about a week from returning from my uber-virus, but given that the Winter Classic and the Hockeytown Winter Festival will be canceled today or tomorrow, I need to state the obivous:

Let there be no mistake. When the NHL cancels the Winter Classic and, as the Free Press's Helene St. James has noted, pulls its rink from Comerica Park, it will have declared nuclear war upon not only the NHLPA, but also its most fervent fans--and business partners.

For the sake of removing negotiating leverage, I believe that the NHL will simply cancel the season unless the NHLPA capitulates and agrees to a CBA that not only slashes player wages and mobility for the sake of pure greed--and a retroactive idiot-proofing of the CBA that punitively damages both the general managers who signed players to "lifetime contracts" and those who represent the league's highest wage-earners and fan favorites--but also ensures that the "kick the can" policies of a league unwilling to address the fundamental deficiencies of its current 30-team business model will almost certainly lock out its players for a fourth time.

In my opinion, the only question that will remain is when the Gary Bettman, Bill Daly and the Board of Governors make Jimmy Devellano's promise to Howard Berger that the season would be, "Very easy to cancel, very easy, believe me!" reality. The Board of Governors' out-of-hand dismissals of the NHLPA's counter-proposals have understated the fact that they wholeheartedly approve of the tactics of a commissioner who wants to burn down the village in order to save it, and to do so for the third time in eighteen years...

And in canceling the Winter Classic, the NHL will unequivocally state that it values the hard-core, highest-willing-to-pay fans not as fellow "cattle" grazing at the owners' ranch, but instead, ever-exploitable grass which they believe will remain readily available to feed upon.

During a third owners' lockout in which the owners' refusal to negotiate with the NHLPA while sharing $3.3 billion of something instead of $0 of nothing has devastated team staffs, broadcasters, rink workers whose livelihoods hinge upon 41 home games' worth of income and the restaurants, memorabilia shops and various businesses which survive thanks to fans' inside and outside-the-rink discretionary spending, canceling the league's marquee event, and doing so with the tacit approval of two of the league's most powerful franchises in the Red Wings and Maple Leafs, makes this war a nuclear one.

When I've been healthy enough to venture onto Twitter (I'm currently recovering from the antibiotic I took to reset my immune system, but am slowly starting to feel more like myself), I've stated that Bettman has become a sort of Dr. Merkwurdigliebe from Dr. Strangelove, advocating the nuclear option as the tactic of first resort, and that the concept of essentially back-hacking the CBA to ensure that some of the players signed to lifetime deals in less than good faith (Ryan Suter had it right before he retracted his remarks) will find themselves unemployed and spread across the league in yet another de-facto lockout turned dispersal draft, with spent cap space ensuring that the highest-earners will have to take massive pay-cuts and re-set the free agent marketplace is nothing less than absurd. The owners' current proposal does nothing less than ravage itself in a bizarre act of penitent self-harm, and such tactics display a truly twisted, if not perverted view of everyone, owners and general managers included, as subject to carpet bombings' worth of collateral damage.

Now, the NHL's ready to remove another leverage point at the cost of telling its biggest sponsors to come back next year, when business terms are more favorable and the league will believe it can squeeze them for even more money, and in terms of the fans?

Die-hard hockey fans have been hit the hardest by the violations of trust in the league as a worthwhile investment of time, energy, emotions and especially money, with those of us who remember the previous lockout (or lockouts) finding ourselves more and more jaded toward the collective that is Bettman and the Board as well as our individual teams' ownership groups, forcing us to question why we spend sometimes thousands or tens of thousands of discretionary income on a lifestyle, an identity and a way of life whose stewards tell us they're breaking up with us every eight to ten years to take some "time off," expecting us to both come back and spend freely as they charge us ever-higher prices to watch players (who are rightly questioning why the hell they play in the NHL and not in Europe when they're being forced to re-start their careers, knowing that a generation of slightly aging stars who couldn't adjust to the "new" game or simply lost their edge due to inactivity were also casualties of the last lockout) compete, almost completely irrespective of player salaries.

And when the NHL informs its fans that it will eventually return their exorbitantly expensive Winter Classic and Hockeytown Winter Festival tickets to them (with or without Ticketmaster's "service fees?" We don't know at this point), it will probably do something particularly cutthroat to ensure that the league's ass may remain cushioned by stacks of money: the league will likely remind fans that its Winter Classic and the Red Wings-sponsored Winter Festival events were incredibly difficult to gain access to, and as such, it's highly likely to suggest that fans leave their hundreds or thousands of dollars in tickets (never mind money earmarked for travel and accommodations) in the league's hands, lest the fans find themselves left waiting at the end of the line, wanting for tickets that are already gone.

It's one thing when teams ask their fans to keep their financial covenant by allowing the team to retain their season-ticket deposits, if not partial or full-season payments, for the sake of "losing one's place"; it's another when the league itself callously cancels the flagship event of its regular season, and tells its sponsors and fans that it might not be wise to relinquish their committed funds.

In that sense, today or tomorrow, the lockout will become a league-wide hostage-taking, with all 30 teams and the NHL itself taking part in the figurative and literal process.

If a saner alternative takes place, and the league either  "holds fans' spots" in line while refunding part or all of their committed funds, or just issues blanket refunds for trust's sake? Don't be surprised if the league cranks up the prices to attend the events next season so that the NHL, the Red Wings and Maple Leafs can make even more money.

As days go by, as the NHL refuses to negotiate with the NHLPA and the league continues to "cancel" events by default, one must also wonder whether the NHL's cachet with sponsors will fade as well given the litany of broken promises and deposits taken, and whether a league that nukes its business and community villages in order to "save" them once a decade can really be taken seriously. In that sense, even the greedy billionaires looking to stick their hands into the pocketbooks and bank accounts of the players who draw fans to the rinks may want to pause before continuing to attempt to give their players, employees and fans a TSA-style frisking, wondering whether their desire for a greater piece of the $3.3 billion pie will have more detrimental long-term effects upon their league-wide and especially local business partnerships...

But it's hard to find any sympathy for the 30 franchises who have agreed to lay waste to the 2012-2013 season and all its marketing and business opportunities, as well as its non-playing employees and the communities that support said teams, for the sake of embracing Bettman and Daly's vision for the business of the supposedly preeminent hockey league in the world for the next decade.

It's much easier to understand that today or tomorrow, the NHL's officially screwing the cities of Detroit and Ann Arbor, Southeastern Michigan as a whole and hundreds of thousands of Red Wings and Maple Leafs fans because the league believes "retrenching" and collecting upon a retroactive, player and fan-fueled bailout for an economic downturn that the league and its 30 teams weathered much better than almost any other North American business enterprise...Is more than worth a collective show of force that cements its status as a sports league that openly resents its fans and business partners, and refuses to "play" for anyone unless its "cattle" bend and break to its demands.

The nuclear option promises long-lasting contamination and fallout for years to come, but the NHL is willing to engage in nuclear war because one fact should hit its fans like a lead apron today: Gary Bettman's NHL and Board of Governors don't give a shit about the people who pay their bills.

I'm sorry to leave you on such a downer, but I'll be back soon to cover the gloom and doom and talk about the players who are playing in prospects and Wings skating overseas. It's too bad that if you want to watch the Red Wings' best players play this season, you're highly likely to have to take a trip to Switzerland, Finland and Russia to do so, but that's the way this lockout rolls.

I do hope to see you soon and I've missed you, TMR readers. In times like these, a sense of community is essential, even if it's a grief support group, and I do want you to know that I don't take your readership for granted, not for a millisecond. I will return as soon as humanly possible.

Update: I don't know where to stick this in the narrative, so I'll place it here: there's no small irony in the fact that the NHL's statement about canceling the Winter Classic and Hockeytown Winter Festival will probably include an invokation of having its players, franchises, business partners and fans' best interests in mind by laying waste to the festivities. The league's, "Trust us, we're doing what's best for you" stance is patronizing at best and mostly deeply insulting.

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Comments

WEALLBLEEDREDD's avatar

Reading the TMR is one of the highlights of my day, get well soon!!!!

Posted by WEALLBLEEDREDD from Vancouver on 10/31/12 at 04:40 AM ET

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This article was pretty overwrought, George.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 10/31/12 at 06:20 AM ET

Vladimir16's avatar

This article was pretty overwrought, George.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 10/31/12 at 06:20 AM ET

Cool post, bro

Posted by Vladimir16 from Grand River Valley on 10/31/12 at 06:57 AM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Welcome back, George.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 10/31/12 at 08:05 AM ET

Cwix's avatar

You are definitely missed, George

Posted by Cwix from Grand Rapids, now Roanoke, VA on 10/31/12 at 08:24 AM ET

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I can not understand why canceling the winter classic is a surprise to anyone.  I mean, they have alreaady canceled all of October and all of November games… and the two sides have not talked in about two weeks. 

Posted by gretzky_to_lemieux on 10/31/12 at 08:44 AM ET

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I struggle to understand how cancelling the most profitable event for the NHL, outside of the playoffs, is a nuclear option against the players. If taking away the last leverage the players have on the league is somehow unfair to the players, then they need to figure out IF they really want to play hockey or not.

Posted by timbits on 10/31/12 at 09:15 AM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

Hope you’re on the mend there Geo, missed your posts around here.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 10/31/12 at 09:52 AM ET

mrfluffy's avatar

This article was pretty overwrought, George.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 10/31/12 at 06:20 AM ET

Says the passive-aggresive troll.

Posted by mrfluffy from A wide spot on I-90 in Montana on 10/31/12 at 11:14 AM ET

George Malik's avatar

I wrote this article attempting to be as subtle as a brick through a window. I know it was overwrought. That’s kind of the point.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 10/31/12 at 11:24 AM ET

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I wrote this article attempting to be as subtle as a brick through a window. I know it was overwrought. That’s kind of the point.

Yeah, but it makes it harder to take the opinions in it as seriously as you might want though.

Granted, being vitriolically anti-owner is a pretty easy, populist path to tread so you’re certain to get a bunch of high fives around here… but too much hot sauce in the rhetoric can lend an air of frayed psyche to the point you may be trying to get across.

Maybe it’s a cathartic exercise more than an attempt to enumerate a reasonable position, though.

 

Posted by HockeyinHD on 10/31/12 at 12:21 PM ET

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Says the passive-aggresive troll.

You wrote a 5 word post and managed to botch 60% of it.

That’s strong work there.  Combining wild inaccuracy with pith is quite a two-fer.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 10/31/12 at 12:25 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Yeah, but it makes it harder to take the opinions in it as seriously as you might want though.

Not really.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 10/31/12 at 12:25 PM ET

Vladimir16's avatar

Yeah, but it makes it harder to take the opinions in it as seriously as you might want though.
Granted, being vitriolically anti-owner is a pretty easy, populist path to tread so you’re certain to get a bunch of high fives around here… but too much hot sauce in the rhetoric can lend an air of frayed psyche to the point you may be trying to get across.
Maybe it’s a cathartic exercise more than an attempt to enumerate a reasonable position, though.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 10/31/12 at 12:21 PM ET

Here’s a couple more fancy words to add to your repertoire
http://dynamo.dictionary.com/52641/fancy-sounding-words-to-make-you-sound-smart

You’re welcome.

Posted by Vladimir16 from Grand River Valley on 10/31/12 at 12:28 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

George, great to see you.  Take care.

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 10/31/12 at 12:45 PM ET

mrfluffy's avatar

That’s strong work there.  Combining wild inaccuracy with pith is quite a two-fer.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 10/31/12 at 12:25 PM ET

I do my best with what you give me to work with.

Oh, here’s another point, oh loquacious one;

When you post a comment, have a point. It makes it so much more interesting for the reader.

Posted by mrfluffy from A wide spot on I-90 in Montana on 10/31/12 at 01:02 PM ET

topshelf14's avatar

@Vladimir and Mr Fluffy

Why are you getting mad at HD all the time on this website? Stop wasting other readers time and energy to skim through the comments and find ones that actually pertain to hockey. HD typically has interesting points that are usually on topic and all you guys seem to post about is how he’s trolling. It’s the Internet, we are on a hockey website sharing opinons and frustration toward the greedy owners and players. Stick to the topic and stop acting like whiny children.

Posted by topshelf14 from Detroit, MI on 10/31/12 at 01:38 PM ET

WingsFaninCO's avatar

HD typically has interesting points that are usually on topic

not sure if serious….

It’s pretty obvious that his first comment in this thread was, in fact, just trolling.  Like the majority of his posts, it was intended to just stir up sh!t so he could find someone to argue with. 

It’s pretty ironic that you complain about commenters “wasting readers time” while coming to the defense of the most confrontational, argumentative, and redundant troll on the site.

Posted by WingsFaninCO on 10/31/12 at 01:49 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

I want to apologize to everybody here because I’ve been the (2nd) worst person here in creating what has turned into a situation in where every post where a certain commenter leaves a comment becomes a place where that person invariably becomes the topic of conversation.  While I usually try to stay on-point to discuss the topic at hand, I certainly can’t deny that a fair deal of them eventually simply turn into a discussion of that person and his motivations, especially in response to ad hominem discussion aimed at me.

I feel that this has become an intentional ploy by this person who simply enjoys being the topic of conversation, especially in cases where he feels that those who are discussing him are doing so from an emotional starting point… that he has “gotten to them.”

In other words, there’s somebody here who I feel says things simply to elicit a negative response from people.

As always, the best response is to deny that person the response he seeks.  I am sorry for my sizable contribution in it getting to this point. Going forward I’ll try to do a better job of discussing ideas rather than people.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 10/31/12 at 02:22 PM ET

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Not really.

Like I said, around here George is taking a pretty easy position.  Most of you guys think the owners are the bad guys, so you’ll thrill and cheer at every anti-owner rant that scrolls across the page.

Going forward I’ll try to do a better job of discussing ideas rather than people.

I look forward to it.  We’ll see how it goes.

When you post a comment, have a point. It makes it so much more interesting for the reader.

Just because you don’t either understand or agree with the point does not mean the point does not exist. wink

It’s pretty obvious that his first comment in this thread was, in fact, just trolling.

Not really.  I actually think the post was overwrought.  George agrees that his intent in choice of style was to be unsubtle.  What you’re bummed out about is that I would say something as vicious and mean as calling a post… overwrought.

Enh.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 10/31/12 at 02:32 PM ET

topshelf14's avatar

I just think its sad to actually get mad at somebody on the computer.  You’re literally wasting your time. Just share your opinion topic at hand and give a counterpoint to those opinions that you disagree with. But to try to judge someone’s intention ( hes trying to stir shit up) is just silly IMO. I don’t know HD personally just some of his comments he will post along with others on this hockey website and I do find his comments interesting at times, that’s all.

Posted by topshelf14 from Detroit, MI on 10/31/12 at 02:50 PM ET

RWBill's avatar

@Vladimir and Mr Fluffy

Stop wasting other readers time and energy to skim through the comments and find ones that actually pertain to hockey.  Stick to the topic and stop acting like whiny children.

Posted by topshelf14 from Hockeytown, USA on 10/31/12 at 01:38 PM ET

Dude, I doubt you were trying to be ironically funny, but it really was.

Posted by RWBill from the open bar on The Hasek. on 10/31/12 at 03:03 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Like I said, around here George is taking a pretty easy position.  Most of you guys think the owners are the bad guys, so you’ll thrill and cheer at every anti-owner rant that scrolls across the page.

Combining the two ideas:

1. When you write like this it’s hard to take it seriously.
2. When you write like this, it’s popular.

I’m getting the vibe that the overarching idea is that it’s hard to take popular writing seriously.  I don’t agree with this at all.  I mean, I get the whole “what’s popular is not always right; what’s right is not always popular” kind of vibe to it, but the unspoken truth to that little proverb is that while the two concepts aren’t mutually inclusive, they’re not exclusive of one another either. In fact, I’d say the idea of there being any implied relationship between something’s popularity and how seriously it should be taken is completely fallacious.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 10/31/12 at 03:15 PM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

zipper

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 10/31/12 at 03:25 PM ET

WingsFaninCO's avatar

1. When you write like this it’s hard to take it seriously.
2. When you write like this, it’s popular.

I’m getting the vibe that the overarching idea is that it’s hard to take popular writing seriously

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 10/31/12 at 03:15 PM ET

Hipster logic

Posted by WingsFaninCO on 10/31/12 at 03:30 PM ET

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I’m getting the vibe that the overarching idea is that it’s hard to take popular writing seriously. 

“Granted, being vitriolically anti-owner is a pretty easy, populist path to tread so you’re certain to get a bunch of high fives around here… but too much hot sauce in the rhetoric can lend an air of frayed psyche to the point you may be trying to get across.”

Hipster logic

Just checking, but you’re the dude whining about trolling, yes?

Posted by HockeyinHD on 10/31/12 at 03:36 PM ET

WingsFaninCO's avatar

Posted by HockeyinHD on 10/31/12 at 03:36 PM ET

Apparently I hit a little close to home with that one.

And, no, I wouldn’t refer to myself or anyone else as a dude.  Except for the guy who is abiding for all us sinners.

Posted by WingsFaninCO on 10/31/12 at 03:44 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

but too much hot sauce in the rhetoric can lend an air of frayed psyche to the point you may be trying to get across.

It *can*, but having too bland a rant eliminates its claws. I happen to like George’s style here and I wouldn’t attribute that entirely to how popular what he has to say is. Larry Brooks is considerably more vitriolic and anti-owner, but I don’t take him as seriously as I take Malik because Brooks’ rants seem to have this air of authority that I don’t get from George’s writing.

I think the air of a frayed psyche is a benefit to the style, as it makes it much more humanistic than what watering it down with stoicism might otherwise do to such a relatable point. It’s perfectly possible to enumerate a reasonable position through a piece which is also cathartic.

I struggle to understand how cancelling the most profitable event for the NHL, outside of the playoffs, is a nuclear option against the players. If taking away the last leverage the players have on the league is somehow unfair to the players, then they need to figure out IF they really want to play hockey or not.

Posted by timbits on 10/31/12 at 09:15 AM ET

I think “nuclear option” here (as I understood it) refers to the theory of mutually-assured destruction.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 10/31/12 at 04:43 PM ET

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I think “nuclear option” here (as I understood it) refers to the theory of mutually-assured destruction.

I didn’t take much of what George wrote as “mutual”. It seemed pretty clear he was saying that the owners were using the nucler option on the players and fans in Detroit and Toronto.

Posted by timbits on 10/31/12 at 10:29 PM ET

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I don’t find HD’s messages to be trolling. He is consistent with his opinion, with which I mostly agree. I have to admit it was challenging to avoid commenting on George’s overly emotional style, which I have now failed on.

Posted by timbits on 10/31/12 at 10:38 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Posted by timbits on 10/31/12 at 10:29 PM ET

Well you said yourself that it’s the most-profitable event for the NHL outside the playoffs.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 10/31/12 at 10:45 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

mutually assured in the fact that even if the NHL has to suffer as well to make the players suffer they’ll do it.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 11/01/12 at 12:11 AM ET

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About The Malik Report

The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.