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Negotiating…without the negotiators

By Tom

Today marks a curious turn in the National Hockey League collective bargaining talks: A handful of franchise owners and a handful of locked-out players will meet today in New York without the lead negotiator for either side, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman for the owners and NHL Players Association executive director Donald Fehr for the players.

Ummm…why?

What’s the purpose of this meeting?  What’s the hoped-for outcome?  And how will this meeting get the hockey world any closer to watching NHL teams take the ice to play actual games?

I’d understand if this was advertised as a mutual gripe session, one where each side vents on the other.  But it’s not.  If one listens to the hockey intelligentsia, this is a negotiating session.  Just without the lead negotiators.  Because negotiating without negotiators makes sense.

This scenario, to me, is like sending your preschool-age son in to the dealership to buy you a car from the janitor.  Nobody with actual purchasing power, nobody with the license to sell you anything – yet there’s an expectation that there will be one mean set of wheels on the other side.  Uh huh.  Gotcha.

No, this just smells like a time-waster, one that provides the illusion of action while we wait for tomorrow’s NHL Board of Governors meeting.  If you haven’t heard, it’s shaping up to be an important one – one apparently so important that all four of the Columbus Blue Jackets governors (and alternates) will be attending.  I’ve been following this team seriously for three years now and do not recall a time when the entire team braintrust gathered for a league function outside of the NHL Draft.

Thus, I’ll be focusing my attention on what comes out of tomorrow’s meeting instead of today’s theater…for I would not be surprised if the 2012-13 season hangs in the balance.

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