THESE ARE THE DAYS OF OUR NHL

Jason Gregor
December 07 2012 01:16PM

The lockout has become equivalent to watching a soap opera. Try as you might, you just can't turn away, and this week they likely sucked you back into their web of lies, deceit and unpredictability. I might have watched Days of our Lives when I was 19, mainly because of Jennifer, Carrie and Hope, but I also found myself getting sucked into their ridiculous story lines. I was amazed at how they could drag out one story line for months at a time. Sound familiar?

You didn't have to watch the show daily to keep abreast of all the glorious backstabbing, love triangles and endless cheesiness, and that is exactly what the NHL lockout has become.

It is a guy's soap opera.

Yesterday's performance by Donald Fehr and Gary Bettman might have been their best work ever.

Fehr was the perfect villain. With the players flanked behind him like loyal soldiers, Fehr spoke calmly, yet confidently and managed to convince those who were watching that a deal was imminent.

Numerous times he mentioned the NHLPA believed that they had an agreement on various touchy issues, like "make whole." He had many fans and media members convinced a deal was close. His words caught most off-guard, because they expected him to come to the podium and rip the NHL. He did no such thing.

You can't be a great villian in a soap opera without possessing the ability to convince people that your words are factual.

Fehr was brilliant.

He ended his first press conference by reiterating how close both sides were to a deal. When he walked away from the microphone you likely thought a deal would be brokered last night.

What happened next would have earned Fehr a nomination in the Daytime Emmy awards for outstanding lead actor in a drama series.

He walked away from the makeshift podium, with his players in unison behind him. The media rushed to interview the players, but within minutes they were being ushered back onto the stage. And now Fehr was once again in front of the microphone.

This was one of the best plot shifts I've seen in any drama series.

I was on air at the time, and watching it unfold on TV and on twitter was surreal. "What does this evil genius have up his sleeve," I said to myself. As you all know watching a soap opera alone and talking to the characters is a must.

And then Fehr dropped the hammer.

He informed the media and those watching at home that the league had rejected their offer, and then he uttered one of his more common lines, “It looks like this is not going to be resolved in the immediate future.”

"Shut the front door," said no one because it is the worst line in the history of commercials, but within minutes Fehr had taken your stomach on a devastating rollercoaster ride. I swear I heard some of the media sobbing, but that might have just been pumped in sound to make it better television.

EIther way it was awesome.

Fehr babbled on for another few minutes and said, "Previously we didn’t think we were nearly as far apart as the owners did, but I think it’s clear now after the positions the players took today that there doesn’t seem to be much room, certainly not unbridgeable room.”

It was the most disingenuous press conference I've ever seen. It fit perfectly with this soap opera script that has become the NHL. The twitterverse exploded with the majority of fans blaming the NHL.

Fehr's plan had worked, or had it?

KNOW WHEN TO LEAVE

He should have just walked off the podium after his opening line of his encore performance, but he didn't.  He spoke for another five minutes, and none of his comments grabbed at you like that opening line,  and then he and the players left. Fans were stunned, some of them tweeted words they'd regret later, the media in attention were speechless, albeit for only seconds, but that's an eternity in a room of ink-stained wretches and talking heads. (Terms of endearment)

The only mistake NHL productions made was not ending the day with the Fehr cliffhanger. Could you imagine how crazy of a night it would have been if you had to wait until this afternoon to hear from Bettman. Of course the NHL isn't great at dragging out things, so I'm sure that never crossed their mind.

Within 45 minutes Bettman and Bill Daly arrived at the podium.

This was a tense moment. I turned up the TV to ensure I wouldn't miss one freakin syllable that emerged from the Count's mouth.

The usually stoic and composed Bettman was visibly rattled. He didn't hide his feelings, but instead he spoke with genuine emotion. He was almost trembling at times as he proceeded to blast Fehr for the next 26 minutes and 43 seconds. Yes Bettman and Daly spend almost 27 minutes expressing their frustration. And no one could take their eyes off of Bettman. This was his defining moment of the lockout. In those 27 minutes he managed to actually retrieve some sympathy for the hearts of fans.

You know you felt it. You know that for those 1600 seconds the man who has overseen three lockouts in the past 18 years, the man you despise, the man you think is ruining your game, got to you.

What a brilliant performance.

“That reminds me of the last time the players the players said we were close, and we were a billion dollars apart,” he fumed. “I don’t know why he (Fehr) did that … I find it almost incomprehensible that he did that."

Bettman exhaled and refocused. "I am disappointed beyond belief that we are where we are tonight, and we’re going to have to take a deep breath and try to regroup."

He stayed on the podium until the media had no more questions. Never in the history of his tenure has Bettman outlasted the media's questions. Maybe he teamed up with @nhlpodium to win over the hearts of fans. Maybe last night Bettman used the Podium to earn your trust, and yesterday he used that to gain your sympathy.

What was even more perplexing was near the end of his marathon podium appearance he uttered words I thought I'd never hear.

"We could have more franchises in jeopardy if we make the wrong deal," he said. He actually admitted that some NHL franchises are in jeopardy.

Soap operas couldn't have written a better script. Bettman suggesting that his league wasn't in perfect harmony? Are you freaking kidding me? I still don't believe he uttered those words.

When Bettman took to the podium most believed he couldn't possibly match Fehr. But boy were we wrong. He was intense, almost human-like and not only did he put the momentum back in the owner's pockets, he also stole Fehr's outstanding lead actor in a drama series award.

When he was done it wasn't close in the eyes of some fans. These are just a few of the tweets I received after his award-winning performance.

At the end of the day, I think he's endeared himself to Canadian hockey fans today, Fehr did not.

: I think Gary actually cares about the game. Can't say the same for Fehr at all

I liked the passion and fight he showed. Players gonna regret it.

Never been a huge Bettmen guy but he made a ton of good points and killed it in that presser. Made Fehr look really bad

Clearly, you can never Count... Gary out. (That was for you, Gene Principe)

WHAT NOW?

Honestly, with this soap opera it is impossible to know. It is safe to say that Bettman will cancel games up to the end of December very soon. The NHL loves to make these announcements on Fridays so it could happen today. You haven't seen the final offer either. All I know is that we are 36 days from the unofficial deadline of January 11th. Bettman wouldn't give a set "drop dead" date when he was asked about one, but he did say, ""We played 48 games in 1995. I can't imagine wanting to play fewer than that." 

I thought Scottie Upshall's tweet was very telling.

There's no pressure yet on the owners to lose this year, that's why they still treat us like Cattle. They'll need a partner come January.

The NHLPA still believes the NHL will come back with a better offer. We'll see.

All I know is that this lockout has become the sportsfan's soap opera. As painful and as predictable as it is, we can't look away.

DAY FIVE

Yesterday we raised another $1,900 for the Santas Anonymous. Big thanks to Jason for his generous bid on the Rush VIP  Package.

Today's package includes...

  • A signed Ryan Nugent-Hopkins blue and orange jersey.
  • The jersey will be framed courtesy of proamsports.ca
  • A party for 10 at the Pint.
  • A pair of gold seats to Oilers game in 2013.

RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR

 

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#51 The Beaker
December 07 2012, 10:32PM
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dulock wrote:

During the last lockout the NHLPA did say they didn't believe teams were losing money. When the NHL, the media, ForbesN common sense, any way you do the math, the constant search for Owners for teams, bankruptcies, no proof that they do make money, common sense and every source says there are teams losing money, it's safe to say it's true. I haven't seen Wayne Gretzky's birth certificate either. Should I question if he's Canadian?

You're over simifying and you know it. I've already said the NHL itself isn't a trustworthy source. The media? You should know what's wrong with saying that. And Forbes for example doesn't always look at the whole picture. I think it was Gregor who was talking about how say the Florida panthers as a team might "lose money" but their parent company who gets other revenue from non hockey nights makes money and they wouldn't without the panthers as a anchor tenant.

It's like stats Canada saying consumption of soft drinks is going down but only counting cans and bottles of pop and not fountain pop.... You can't just take things at face value all the time.

Sure some teams lose money but at the same time there's more to things then we are all privy to. I just hate everyone citing some stuff like they have some inside knowledge that gives them a complete picture then using that to create some argument. It's asinine.

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#52 Dulock
December 07 2012, 11:03PM
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@The Beaker

You're being obtuse and you know it. You're saying that despite everyone agreeing except the conspiracy theorists isn't the basis for an argument. Waiting for an absolute truth is asinine. The theory of gravity could be disproved tomorrow.

I also hate the "parent company" argument. Say you have a Walmart with a McDonalds in it. The Walmart (anchor tenant) loses money but the McDonalds makes the whole profitable. The McDonalds requires the Walmart to exist. Your argument is that the Walmart employees should make more despite their department losing money. That's really asinine.

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#53 The Beaker
December 07 2012, 11:17PM
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@Dulock

Absolutely not, I don't know what you mean by "everyone agreeing" I never ever said there arent teams that are losing money, of course there are. I just said there's way more to the story then just that. And I said I don't believe 20 teams are losing money. There's too much general rhetoric about the game growing and being successful for that to be taken at face value. You're just cherry picking some general ideas and saying well that must be the whole truth.

And the parent company thing has merit. I used to work for a company which the owners owned a related company manufacturing things the other company sold. They sold that product for artificially low prices to the second store and then sold then for large profit at the other store just so they could say the first company took loses every year for the tax benefits.

So looking at the panthers as one example if they lose money and get all sorts of tax benefits from operating at a loss but their parent company makes money they wouldn't ever make without having the panthers then you cannot desperate the two and say they don't affect each other.

All I'm saying is there's more to the story than you and I know and to pretend you know more because its "common sense" is just stupid. Universal truth is not measured in mass appeal.

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#54 dougtheslug
December 07 2012, 11:27PM
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Rama Lama wrote:

No deal.......surprise surprise! The NHLPA I will only make a deal when the season is on the line, with a deadline date cast in stone.

Fear is brilliant in hearding his dysfunctional cast of privileged players into saying the same thing.........but things are about to change. I'm sure more players are starting to think Roman Hamarlik was right along, you can't expect the deal to keep getting better with half the season gone.

No common sense in the NHLPA........these guys live in a parallel universe.

Hey Ramalama- you can cast in iron. You can cast in bronze. You can cast a broken bone. You can even cast the first stone. But you can't cast in stone.

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#55 Oilertown
December 07 2012, 11:39PM
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Have to say I am for the owners and have been for a looonng time now. The players are only employees and very well paid ones at that and will still be when this mess is over. They need to shut up and take what's offered to them cause I am certain it will NOT get any better then this last offer.

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#56 The Beaker
December 07 2012, 11:44PM
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@Dulock

Also, when did I say the players should get more?? This is beginning to be a problem, people just making things up because someone else maybe one day stated a similar position so I must say the sane things?

I'm just saying font always just buy into PR at face value. Anytime any corporation or business or important person lets such information out like this publicly it's to forward an idea they would like everyone to believe, it doesn't have to be 100% of the truth. I never said there wasn't truth to the ideas you have said, just that there might be more to it and if you don't recognize that then you are being "obtuse".

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#57 B S
December 08 2012, 12:07AM
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Dulock wrote:

You're being obtuse and you know it. You're saying that despite everyone agreeing except the conspiracy theorists isn't the basis for an argument. Waiting for an absolute truth is asinine. The theory of gravity could be disproved tomorrow.

I also hate the "parent company" argument. Say you have a Walmart with a McDonalds in it. The Walmart (anchor tenant) loses money but the McDonalds makes the whole profitable. The McDonalds requires the Walmart to exist. Your argument is that the Walmart employees should make more despite their department losing money. That's really asinine.

even the business world isn't cut and dry as "your department isn't making money therefore we should be paying you less". Geologists don't make oil companies any money and typically cost oil companies millions of dollars in salary, supplies and equipment rentals; however, without them the Oil companies wouldn't be able to find hydrocarbon to fuel your big pickup truck and gouge you at the pumps.

Also, NHL franchises can make a lot of money that doesn't qualify as HRR, and therefore doesn't have to be presented to the NHLPA, but wouldn't exist without the players.

You say the players are being greedy, but in fact the franchises are colluding to limit the earning potential of the players (i.e. salary cap, it's like being told that you're not allowed to make anymore as an accountant, anywhere in North America, ever).

I don't like either side, but the players aren't the ones who decided to stop hockey, and as a fan that's all that really matters right now.

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#58 Milli
December 08 2012, 09:15AM
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Ya, you are 100% right Gregor, first I was making plans to drive to Edmonton for the home opener (which I swore I wouldn't do, but who doesn't wanna see the kids in action). Then, man was I mad, but after Betman ( how I have hated him) spoke, he had me, still does. Fehr should have put it to a vote. Then the idiotic tweets from some players, like you guys really want my sympathy? Really? Come work with me for a week before you babies bitch about being treated like cattle. Give me a break.

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#59 jay
December 08 2012, 10:42AM
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how sweet would it be if all the arenas were empty when they get back playing?

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#60 Evilas
December 08 2012, 11:08AM
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DSF wrote:

Nonsense.

The players are the meal.

I am not using this as a restaurant analogy, I am using this as the players coming to a home built by the owners, buying the ingredients, preparing the meals, etc. Inviting them to the table to eat after they provide everything. Players just have to bring their appetites and they are taken care of.

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#61 Rama Lama
December 08 2012, 11:35AM
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dougtheslug wrote:

Hey Ramalama- you can cast in iron. You can cast in bronze. You can cast a broken bone. You can even cast the first stone. But you can't cast in stone.

What exactly is your point?

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#62 Hammers
December 08 2012, 02:56PM
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Sorry I don't agree with any sympathy for Bettman . He is a representing billionaire owners who keep taking back . Look at other sports around the world but in north america players are treated baddly . I think of it as if I had a son good enough to play pro and 80% to 90% of those kids are dictated to from day 1 .The stars get what they deserve but all the rest are treated like cattle . As much as nobody enjoys "no games" I totally understand not wanting a 10 year deal.Meanwhile i'm enjoying other sports on TV , going to the racetrack & junior hockey more often . Actually getting in a groove and may not give NHL owners like Katz any more of my money .

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