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Lockout now a stunning disaster

The NHL’s relevance is evaporating in front of our eyes.

It is sad, really.

Both sides are close enough, on the surface, to making a deal to save the 2012-13 season. According to the information leaked late Wednesday, there were only a few more sticking points to work out. Instead, egos have once again interfered and put the season in peril. All optimism from earlier this week is gone.

It could all be posturing from Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr, and talks could resume within the next few days. Or it could be a signal this back-and-forth war doesn’t have an end anywhere in sight.

If it is simply posturing, some of it doesn’t make sense.

Earlier today it was reported that the NHLPA felt mediation was needed (to no surprise, the NHL disagreed). Hours later, PA executive director Donald Fehr stood in front of the media to paint a picture that both sides were actually close to a deal. Then why the hell was mediation needed? Why the hell was he suggesting they were close when they really weren’t?

After Fehr had his two separate press conferences – the second to announce the NHL rejected the NHLPA’s proposal – a disgusted Gary Bettman and Bill Daly took to the podium to share the league’s point of view.

As the NHL’s two-headed monster went on a 32-minute rant (32!), Daly pointed out that of the main negotiation issues the contract term limit of five years is “the hill we will die on.” Seriously? The owners are going to take a hard stance on this issue three months after most teams ridiculously scurried to lock up upcoming free agents to long-term contracts before the previous CBA expired? They should be ashamed of themselves for this.

And then there is Bettman, who has said numerous times the NHL is taking a hard stance because he is looking out for the long-term health of the league. Is it me or will another lost season (the second on his watch, don’t forget) hurt the league’s long-term health more than who gets what percentage of the pie? Bettman’s reasoning is his way of saying, “We’re not going to lose this battle?”

By the time the battle is won or lost, the league will be irrelevant in the sports world. The sport survived by a thread eight years ago. Now, after all the silliness when there is no rhyme or reason for a lockout to begin with? No chance. Not only is the league about to lose sponsors, it is losing fans with each passing stalemate in negotiations.

It is possible an agreement this week could have made people forget or forgive what has taken place over the last three months. Not anymore. Not after Thursday’s inexplicable firestorm.

It is evident that these two parties cannot negotiate together. Want proof? When the PA wanted Fehr back in the room Wednesday night, the owners warned them it would a deal-breaker. A day later, talks went south. Fehr is a cancer to these negotiations, but he is not the only one.

It is not a coincidence that progress was made during the owners-players meeting Tuesday when Bettman and Fehr did not take part. It is not a coincidence that everything went up in smoke when the high-ranking egomaniacs, specifically Fehr, rejoined the process Thursday.

Neither side thinks the other is “willing to negotiate.” Neither side can even agree what they disagree on. They don’t use a calculator that spews out the same math. The NHL left a voicemail Thursday to tell the PA their offer had been rejected. It is embarrassing.

Bettman and Fehr shouldn’t be the ones to lead the NHL and PA, respectively, through this trying process. Unfortunately, they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. We could sit here all day and point fingers at who is to blame. Everyone is to blame.

The season is in limbo. The words “decertification” and “disclaimer of interest” will soon be brought to the forefront. The posturing will probably continue.

In the process, we are all witnessing a stunning series of disastrous events that are sadly killing the National Hockey League and its image.

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