Tuesday’s NHL negotiation news created a momentary burst of optimism among hockey fans everywhere, and the flurry of bargaining table and backroom caucusing Wednesday only added to the excitement. Ah, perhaps Santa was planning a pre-Christmas delivery for avid hockey fans. After a frustrating loss of the first half of the season would we soon hear the sweet sounds of skates digging deep into the ice and players being hard checked into the boards?
But alas, on Thursday while union head Donald Fehr was announcing at the Westin Times Square that both sides were close on most major issues, Commissioner Gary Bettman and the owners opined that the sides were not close at all. And by Thursday night talks had broken off completely. Bettman has since delivered a giant lump of coal to fans’ stockings by threatening that he would not accept a season of fewer than 48 games.
As always there are a myriad of complex issues to which both sides are tightly clinging, but in the end it’s just one more instance where a lack of collaboration, choosing adversarial rather than interest based bargaining continues to result in a packed Penalty Box full of owners, players and unfortunately the fans who furnish the income being argued over. Just a reminder – it is possible for labor and management to choose a different path.