Let a Woman Do It

Let A Woman Do It: The NHL Lockout

Yes, some of us are still enthralled with the football season. Yes, some of us are still trying to figure football out.

But let’s turn our eye to professional  hockey. The 2012-2013 winter may be a few high sticks short of a powerplay if our puck-seeking brethren don’t break free. Don’t get the wrong idea. Argo is still about hostages in Iran, not the penalty box.

Here’s what’s going down in hockey town.

When the clock struck midnight on September 15, 2012, the Collective Bargaining Agreement that regulated the working relationship between the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association expired. That meant that the two sides needed to board their pumpkin coach, ease off their glass slippers, and get comfy so that they could negotiate a new agreement.  If they couldn’t come up with something by October 11, 2012, the official start of the 2012-2013 NHL season would officially be blown.

Just to help make those negotiations less productive and more antagonistic, as soon as the CBA expired, the league’s owners declared a lockout. A lockout is like a burglary in reverse: You want to get inside your house, but you can’t because there’s a guy inside pretending not to rob you, and he won’t let you in until you agree that he can take some stuff.

So now in one net, we’ve got Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner. In the other net, we’ve got Don Fehr, the head of the NHLPA. In the center of the rink is a big, glittery pile of $3.3 billion.

That $3.3 billion represents last season’s “hockey related revenues,” or “HRR.” The fight is over whether Gary or Don gets to stash a bigger cut of that HRR in his net. Gary says the league deserves more because (a) 18 NHL teams lost money last season; and (b) the league was too generous to the players under the recently-expired CBA. Don says the players deserve more because (a) the league is experiencing huge financial growth; and (b) the league was too stingy with the players under the recently-expired CBA.

This whole thing should sound vaguely familiar. In just the past 18 months, there have been two lockouts in the NFL (referees and players), an NBA lockout, and now this NHL lockout. And since 1994, the NFL, NBA, and NHL have experienced 8 lockouts.

What do all of these lockouts have in common? Sports, yes. Disputes over player salaries, yes. Increases in things like worker productivity, also yes.

But look closer. What else do you see?

You see men. Lots and lots of men. Men doing the sports, the team-owning, the negotiating, the press conferences.  Men creating the problem and men failing to clean up the mess.

If a woman were put in charge, she would have a six-point plan that would make the likes of Messrs. Obama and Romney weep. She would march into a boardroom, push the testosterone aside with the poke of a large foam finger, and do the following:

  • Tell everyone to go shower up. The lingering smell of stale sweat and ego needs to be dispensed with.
  • Impose an actual deadline for resolution. One hour post-showers, say.
  • Define the word perspective. Use the word in a sentence by explaining that “perspective” illuminates that these men are fighting over money that gets generated from someone buying a ticket, someone else buying some popcorn, someone else watching a game on television, and yet another someone playing a hockey video game starring their favorite player. In other words, they are fighting over money generated by their fans. The people who want to see the players, well, play, and who happily fork over the money they earn at a job they have to do for four seasons (not just one) for that entertainment.
  • Remind them that there are entire countries in Europe who’d say that any cut of a $3.3 billion (per winter) pie looks like a pretty delicious cut.
  • Flip a coin, and whoever wins the toss gets 51% of the pie this year, 49% next year, and so on.
  • Erase the word “brinksmanship” from both the English and the French-Canadian languages.

Alas, there’s no crying in baseball, no “i” in “team,” and no woman in charge of stemming the lockout epidemic.

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