NHL Lockout: Players and Owners Must Eliminate Perpetual Work Stoppages

Ben LippelContributor IIIOctober 22, 2012

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 13:  Don Fehr, executive director of the National Hockey League Players Association meets with the media at Marriott Marquis Times Square on September 13, 2012 in New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

"I try to not get excited and not get disappointed. I've learned from long experience that all that does is burn my hormones."

That was NHLPA head honcho Donald Fehr, as he responded to the league's owners, who emphatically turned down all three proposals last week from the players' union. 

So hockey's latest work stoppage rambles on. And there appears to be no end in sight.

Lots of hormones aside from Fehr's are burning right now.

Badly.

In business, you're only as good as the strength of your relationships. And right now, the NHL players and owners are truly as "separated" as business partners can be. Unfortunately, they're heading down a slippery slope that could lead to yet another season without hockey, similar to what transpired in 2004

History is repeating itself, hitting the NHL like a bone-rattling, open-ice hip check. And everyone associated with the game is feeling the pain.

This is where we are right now:

30 billionaire owners and 600 millionaire players can't decide how to split more than $3 billion in revenues. Incredulous as that may seem.

The lockout has eaten up a total of 232 games—97 preseason games and 135 regular-season games.

Gary Bettman is huffing, puffing and threatening to blow all of the NHL houses down. 

What does all this mean?

It's time to stop the madness.

It's time for Bettman and Fehr to put their egos aside so the dealing can be finalized and the healing can begin.

It's time for both sides to realize how important they are to one another's ultimate success. 

The truth is, there's way too much at stake now to keep perpetuating this unnecessary labor strife.

A long-term solution is the only solution.

Here's why:

Both parties involved cannot expect the fans and the sponsors to come back time and again. At its best, professional hockey is a fringe sport in the U.S. The longer it stays off the radar, the more likely that those who were casual viewers at best will undoubtedly stay away. The NHL hammered out a 10-year, $2 billion dollar deal with NBC last year, to help hockey gain a stronger foothold south of the Great White North. 

Ain't gonna happen when the product is put in the deep freeze.

KHL games on ESPN won't get it done, either.

Yes, the hardcore fans will come back. They always do. But even the people who have an unbridled passion for pucks will undoubtedly feel more than a hint of skepticism. Can't blame them for it.

The blame here falls squarely on the shoulders of the players and the owners. Maybe they should enter some sort of sports-related counseling program. Perhaps they should stop spinning their respective PR machines and focus on what really matters: the game. 

Not likely.

The owners will continue to claim that they're paying the rank and file too many greenbacks. The players will continue to claim as though they are entitled to their exorbitant salaries and revenue streams.

A relationship will continue to crumble. A relationship that needs to be saved. From itself.

"When it comes time to have a partnership, which we all want, which we have to have...if we don't have it, we'll have a lockout in six years. Again. We will, for sure."

Detroit Red Wings forward Dan Cleary said it best, as he spoke last week in Toronto as one of the NHLPA representatives who presented the owners with the union's three offers.

Cleary is someone who clearly gets it.

Too bad there aren't more people involved in this unmitigated mess who feel the same way.

Your thoughts?