Can I tell you how much I like Jeremy Roenick?
"If people are going to sit and chastise pro athletes for being cocky - for being suck asses - they need to look at one thing and that's the deal we're going to be signing in about three weeks. Pro athletes are not cocky. Pro athletes care about the game. Everybody out there who calls us spoiled because we play a game - they can kiss my ass....I will say personally, personally, to everybody who calls us spoiled, you guys are just jealous, and screw you guys because we have tried so hard to get this game back on the ice to make it better for the fans. And if you don't realize that, don't come. We don't want you in the rink, we don't want you to watch hockey. Period."
It's been an ongoing source of confusion (and frustration) for me over the past year to know that >80% of hockey fans (and media) blame the players for the lost season. The arguments have been hashed out ad nauseam in sports media and on this blog, but there's one that bears repeating one last time:
This is not a normal labour negotiation. Even if the players "won" the negotiations hands-down, not one of them would make a single cent unless a team owner freely and willingly signed them to a contract. As it is, it appears that they will have "lose" hands-down, and be the first sports union in my memory to emerge from contract negotiations freely admitting it. As in, "We think this is a terrible deal, but it looks like it's the best we're going to get, and we want to play, so we're signing."
And when the new agreement doesn't work (for various reasons both foreseeable and not), and they are trying to negotiate the next one five years down the road, I guarantee it will again be the players under the gun to "accept the financial realities of the business", etc. etc.. Furthermore, the pundits who, like the last 10 years, spend the next 5 years lambasting Gary Bettman for his sorry management of the NHL product, will again decide that he and the owners are the ones who are guarding the best interests of the league.
It's enough to make this hockey fan sick. I'm forced to conclude that only a part of the fans' animus towards the players can be explained by misguided self-interest. The rest, I'm afraid, is borne out of envy--which is a really distasteful thing to witness on such a large scale. Roenick is right.