I’ll reiterate that I’m trying to refrain from getting too caught up in the day-to-day soap opera of the National Hockey League collective bargaining agreement talks to keep the emotional highs and lows out of this marathon process for your emotional stability and mine. But it’s been a while since I checked in, so let’s review what’s gone down.
1. First, the All-Star Weekend cancellation. I shared the email that ticket holders received from the Columbus Blue Jackets and promised additional thoughts. Some of them are here. Past that, I feel for the fans. All-Star Games and surrounding activities can be looked at as a silly exercise – so silly, in fact, that the NFL is considering elimination of their All-Pro Game entirely – and really has no bearing on the competitive performance of the Columbus Blue Jackets, but the importance to the Columbus fanbase can’t be overstated.
This was to be an event, one that made Columbus the epicenter of the sport of hockey for a weekend. From what I gather (I wasn’t in town when it happened), there was a similar feeling with Columbus hosting the 2007 NHL Draft. If the Blue Jackets can’t tear up the league, at least Columbus fans can take pride in doing a great job in showing off this great community. Thus, having the All-Star Weekend rug pulled out from under the community is a direct blow to that pride. I only hope that the NHL sees fit to make good on their commitment to Columbus sooner than later.
2. As to the negotiations themselves, the two sides found themselves at an impasse (I know, shocking). This time, however, they agreed to bring in the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to help them bridge the divide. They met for a couple of days and…went nowhere. No more meetings have been scheduled with the Feds. So that’s that.
3. The next big pivot point is the forthcoming NHL Board of Governors meeting on December 5th. I can’t say I’m overly optimistic that gathering the owners in a room will prompt a change of heart (I still maintain that it will take an outside party with a huge financial stake, like the NHL’s broadcast partners or sponsors, to change the negotiating dynamic), but you never know how a few months of lost games (and lost revenue) can change an owner’s outlook.
4. That’s not to say that there aren’t cracks in the two sides’ public relations armor. The Washington Capitals’ Roman Hamrlik broke ranks in calling out NHL Players Association executive Donald Fehr, and apparently a Winnipeg alternate governor was slapped down by Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs when he suggested that the Jets’ interest was in getting the players back on the ice instead of holding out for the optimal CBA deal.
5. Wait – a hockey note? Is that permissible? Guess so, even if it’s not the best news that could come to Nationwide Boulevard. 2012 first pick Ryan Murray, waiting out the lockout with his major junior team in Everett, Washington, tore his labrum (nasty shoulder injury). Murray’s going to have to have surgery to repair it…and won’t be playing hockey again until next fall as a result. I suppose that if you have to have a season-ending injury, having it in a lockout year is probably the best possible time to do so.
Unitil next time…