Japan (still) We all remember what happened 8 years ago when the NHL locked out. Players moved on to various leagues around the world, and some went into premature (and sometimes only half serious) retirement while pursuing other ventures. I was in university at the time, and the St. George campus at the University of Toronto was all a flutter with Eric Lindros sightings. The “Next One” had taken to studying history and economics, if memory serves me well, during the Lockout of ’04. I remember being personally shocked, and I’m sure I wasn’t alone in this, when Lindros signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs immediately following the work stoppage. As a Leafs fan I was horrified, as he had really put on that old Freshman 15, and seemed grossly out of shape by NHL standards, but whatever, I’m a judgmental bitch.
Anyway, even in 2004 I remember thinking that the NHL players, who were in battle over the implementation of the salary cap, looked really unsupportive of their fellow union members by taking off to Europe for the 2004-05 season. It was kind of like saying, “Yeah, well, I don’t give a fuck about my NHL job, because I have this other job.” My opinion on this matter has not changed, as we are now beginning to see NHL stars taking off to Europe since the 2012-13 work stoppage has been declared official.
Now, obviously in a real world workers’ strike situation, those who are less fortunate (or simply just felt compelled to do so) may go off and find other jobs to support their families, etc. But if that’s the case, it looks pretty fucking shitty to just waltz back into the office/factory/wherever X-number of months/years later, and just reclaim their position, when their fellow union members were there sweating it out on the streets, picketing day in and day out, and not being paid a dime. Of course, the harsh reality is that more often than not these “little people” are simply replaced by a fresh crop of workers.
NHL players have a lot more leverage than your average civilian. They know that they are the best in the world at their jobs, and that the NHL simply cannot replace them without jeopardizing the talent pools, and the quality of the NHL product for a good several years to come. NHL players have also been paid ridiculous salaries leading up to the Lockout, so with the exception of those irresponsible players who either drank, snorted, and/or fucked their millions away, I think they (and their families) will be just fine for a fews months (or a season) without a paycheck.
Oh, but “everyone is entitled to make a living.” Yeah, OK, maybe in the real world. But like I just said, NHL players have more leverage than most work strikers. All that playing in Europe (until play in the NHL resumes) is going to achieve is to send a big FUCK YOU to the rest of the NHLPA, and a TOUGH SHIT to the players in the European leagues, who are not as well off financially as the guys playing in the NHL to begin with, by stealing their jobs. Why? Because they are bored? Or so they can buy another Range Rover for their collection? And it has to be said… Just a matter of days ago the NHLPA was spouting off all that “United We Stand” bullshit. Yeah, if that’s true, then stand to-fucking-gether.
I’m pretty sure the fans would rather see the players working proactively to end the Lockout, than fleeing to Europe.
I will say that I am personally impressed with leagues like the Swedish Eliteserien, which decided to prohibit locked out NHL players from signing with them for less than the entirety of the 2012-13 season. I think this is quite significant, as most people believe the Lockout of 2012 will be a short one (although, now I’m not quite as convinced as I was a few weeks ago, but that’s another story), and NHL players are unlikely to take the plunge and commit to a full year, especially if they could potentially go back to their cushy NHL lives in a month or two. Naturally, the SEL would stand to profit by big name NHLers drawing new, NHL sized crowds this year, so I really applaud them for this movement.
Now maybe I’m a hypocrite, but I do consider the American Hockey League to be an exception to the rule. The AHL is a feeder league. Developing NHL players come and go with regularity, and the players, who aren’t fortunate enough to be in the NHL system, are often reassigned to the AHL feeder clubs in the ECHL or Central League. This happens whether there is an NHL Lockout or not. Now, obviously, there will be greater displacement for the borderline AHLers this season. However, missing a season to Lockout would actually be seriously damaging to the development of the young future stars of professional hockey, who likely would have played a portion of 2012-13 in the A anyway, I might add. Obviously a seasoned and well paid NHL veteran is in an entirely different boat… I mean… yacht… Playing in Europe is purely superficial, but I suppose that’s true for most things in the life of today’s NHL player…
Countdown to Hockey Land return: 11 days!