The NHL players are represented by a top-heavy, apparently corrupt, dud of a union. This union led them into a lockout with almost no leverage, a bad PR image, and a refusal to accept the financial state of the NHL. Regardless of which side you took in the lockout, you cannot tenably hold that the NHLPA executed with any semblance of competence.
My opinion is that it’s pretty hard to defend a “free-market” in the NHL when other leagues that are much more successful have salary caps. But regardless of that, how can you justify causing a lockout and then agreeing later to a cap after the majority of your union’s members (who are not multi-millionaires) have been going with little or no salary for a year?
Now apparently, there was some kind of behind the scenes mutiny, but I doubt we’ll ever know all of the details. In the end, the players took it in the ass and they could only cheer about becoming free agents at a younger age (they could have had that concession very early in the game), which won’t get them anything since each player can only receive a certain salary.
So, in short, they bungled it. Usually in a standoff, the players curry favor with the fans. Not this time. Poll after poll showed that fans were sick of big contracts for players who delivered little and forced their franchise player to leave town for draft picks. And since this is really a Canadian sport, these economics cost the game two Canadian games and a Minnesota team (for nearly 10 years).
For all the complaining about clutching, grabbing, and trapping, it was the economics and expansion that caused this. The economics were the players fault for demanding salaries commesurate with players in other sports. The expansion was Bettman’s fault. Now we have cup winners in Tampa Bay and Dallas–where the sport will never, ever get top billing.
But as disdainful as I am of a 30 team league and the attendant dilution of talent (resulting in the need to play defense) that it occassioned, even in a 15 or 20 team league, having 5 of those control the market still would have resulted in non-competition, bankrupt teams, and Canadian teams unable to keep their talent.
If Canadian interest in the sport dies, the game dies. Period. Canadian teams should be subsidized, and they should represent much more of league. Winnipeg, Quebec, Hamilton, and a second Toronto team should be created.
But despite all of this idiocy by the owners, the players’ union couldn’t have done a worse job during the lockout.
The players should simply get together and vote in a new union. It’s not that hard. I would already be circulating cards if I was a player.