NHL lockout: More bickering from the privileged class

By Doug Halberstadt
Sports Columnist

Fans of the National Hockey League (NHL) are a little hot under the collar these days. The owners and players of the sport they dearly love are involved in a labor dispute that, at a bare minimum, will most likely delay the start of the regular season. It is possible the lockout could even jeopardize the entire season. The exhibition season has already fallen victim to the dispute.

I know most people reading this will find this hard to believe, but at the core of the dispute is money. There is a salary cap in the current collective bargaining agreement; NHL owners want additional economic concessions from players. Players currently receive 57 percent of hockey-related revenue, and the owners want to bring that number down to below 50 percent, possibly even as low as 47 percent. The players’ union offered a deal based on actual dollars, seeking a guarantee of the $1.8 billion players received last season. Following a recent negotiating session, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said, “In these economic times, there is a need to retrench.”

On the players’ side of the ledger, they are claiming annual industry revenue has grown from $2.1 billion to $3.3 billion under the expiring deal. Players say they shouldn’t be forced to make concessions. They contend if some teams aren’t making money, management should re-examine the club’s revenue-sharing formula.

To the best of my knowledge, that’s the basics of where both sides currently stand.

I’ve said it many times before, but I believe the average fan couldn’t care less about which side is right or wrong. The majority of us can only fantasize what it would be like to be arguing over millions and millions of dollars. It’s something only a very few elite members of our society will ever know. They are the handful of athletes who have reached the epitome of their chosen sport.

In addition to the handsome salaries they are paid, the fringe benefits are extremely nice as well. They travel in first class, eat only the best meals, stay in the finest hotels, and receive the best health care available. They want for nothing. Those are just a few of the things that come to mind immediately. I’m one who has always been in tune with being thankful for the blessings I have. I wish the owners and the players would do the same.

I’d suggest both of them take a few hours, or even days, if necessary, to take a personal inventory of their privileged lives and try to come up with a way to settle their petty differences.

The longer they continue to bicker over who is going to get a bigger piece of the pie, they continue to remind all of us, our piece of the pie will never measure up to theirs, no matter how hard we work. That’s the sad truth and the harsh reality of being a fan of professional sports.

Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.

From the Oct. 3-9, 2012, issue

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