NHL Lockout’s Forgotten Victim

I’ve kinda been apathetic about the now arrived NHL lockout.  I’ve long suspected that the lockout was coming and was going to last through the remainder of this calendar year.  I can already see the headline, “NHL returns with Winter Classic on January 1, 2013”.  Who is to blame, the owners or players?  Who cares.  I certainly don’t, because neither side cares right now.  Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr can try to woo the fans, but that choice comes down to choosing between Cinderella’s two ugly step sisters.  I’d rather go home alone.

I was going to remain silent on the issue, because what is there really to say.  But a few days ago I got into a brief back and forth with Spector’s Hockey (Lyle Richardson) on twitter (I’m @RussellWaxman).  Spector’s basically was talking about all the NHL players signing in Europe and how no one was forcing those European owners to offer the players contracts.  But he ignores the collateral damage caused by the NHL players signing these contracts, the players whose jobs are being taken by the NHLers. 

I don’t expect the NHLers to cave to the owners, but these millionaire players certainly don’t have the moral high ground to stand on either.  Do the likes of Alex Ovechkin and others signing contracts in those European leagues care about the European players losing the jobs they are taking?  As Spector’s correctly states, the European owners aren’t forced to offer contracts to the NHL players.  But he leaves out the follow-up point that no one is forcing millionaire NHL players from signing those contracts.  These aren’t young 4th line NHLers who don’t have a financially secure background signing in Europe.  These are the NHL superstars already financially secure that are taking away jobs from players who aren’t making NHL salaries.  Which is worse the billionaire owners of the NHL locking out the millionaire players, or the millionaire players taking jobs from guys making a livable wage playing out their dream of professional hockey Europe.  This doesn’t mean that Gary Bettman is in the right, but it surely doesn’t put the NHLers on the right side of the issue either.  Damien Cox of the Toronto Star tweeted it best shortly after my back-and-forth with Spector’s, “‘We are not going to cave in!’ says Ovechkin.  Wonder if he feels at all for his union mates who can’t go steal someone’s KHL job”.  The NHL superstars are leaving the guys who need their NHL salary behind and are kicking European league players that are at the bottom of those rosters to the street.  Superstars indeed. 

I don’t side with the greedy self-centered owners in this lockout, because Bettman and his henchmen won’t make some simple corrections to the league (Phoenix to Quebec City and Florida to Toronto for starters).  But the greedy self-centered players aren’t looking much more attractive. 

Guess I’m going home alone from the ball again.

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