Thursday, July 07, 2005

"He won."

Some quick housekeeping - I've added a few more excellent sites to the blogroll. Welcome to Billy Beck and to the Bear & Friends. I snicker at bloggers who describe themselves as libertarian, but Mr. Beck is quite obviously the real deal. The folks at Blank Out Times are both prolific and interesting.

Mathew Ingram's A Complete Waste of Time is filled with absolutely fascinating bits of tech and art. Macduff et al manage at times to defend various bits of statism in a way that doesn't make me want to have Telus cancel my internet connection, so kudos to them.

Last but certainly not least, I've added Tom Benjamin's NHL Weblog. It is a travesty that not a single media outlet in North America employs a commentator with Tom's interest in challenging the Bettman/owner "vision" for the NHL, let alone his skill.

Tom had a terrific post on Canada Day that will save me the trouble of writing my own. Here's the nuts:
"We're not prepared to live with the current system. We think the current system is fatally flawed. We want it fixed. We know what the problems are, and we know how to fix it... We have a fundamentally different vision for the future of this game. I think we speak for the game because the types of concerns that the fans have are the very types of concerns that we're trying to address with getting a new system... we're asking people, our fans, to be patient with us with the assurance that we will make things right." - Gary Bettman

Gary Bettman won and it's time to deliver on those assurances. Bettman made promises to the fans if they supported him through this fight. They did, and he won. They supported him because they believed in his vision, a vision that supposedly assured the health of the league for the long term. The players offered a band-aid, a short term fix. Bettman rejected it and blew off the year to fix the game for all time, or at least for the next ten or fifteen years.

No apologies are required. All Gary has to do is deliver on the promised utopia. He said he knew how to fix all the game's ills and promised to make everything right. He proved he has the power to get his own way. It's time to shut up and put up the Gary Bettman hockey league. It had better be great.

I've been contemplating things along the same lines for the past few weeks, ever since it became clear that the players were conceding. My biggest frustration with the analysis of the NHL contract dispute is that there is never mention of how we ought to judge whether the new system works. Hell, beyond the odd cliche about competitive balance and a "level playing field", I'm not even that clear what most pundits want!

It would make me very happy if every member of the Hockey Writers was made to answer this brief questionnaire, especially since most of them claim to speak for "the fan". It'd be pretty meaningless right now, but I think that in 5 or 6 years we might find it useful to have some of this down on paper.

(1). How do you plan on judging whether the new NHL CBA is an improvement over the old one? Is there at least one objective standard that should be met?

(2). Regardless of how things shake out over the next 5 years, at this point, the commissioner and the owners have gotten what they wanted, and the players have not. If the NHL fails to meet expectations over the next several years, are you prepared to hold the commissioner and the owners accountable as the ones responsible for this failure?

(3). If the NHL does in fact fail to meet your expectations over the next several years, and it is reasonable to hold the commissioner and the owners responsible: What level of skepticism would it be appropriate to cast on the owners' proposed solution next time?

If I could hear a few hockey pundits answer even just Question #1, I would be thrilled.


At 11:57 p.m., Blogger N said...

Jerry, I think you're asking the wrong question (#1) here. As a fan, it's not up to me to determine if any objective standard vis a vis the new CBA will be met. This is an employment contract between the owners and the players. Should I care about the contract that Nicholas Cage signs with Dreamworks? Or the contract that Sting signs with Sony? Who gives a crap! What I care about as a fan is only this: are the games competitive and fun to watch. Professional hockey is entertainment. Recreation. It's the on-ice product that we can judge, not the employment contract--and even this judgement is subjective, not objective.

Even the best CBA in the world is not going to make the on-ice product a good one, but I would suggest that a bad CBA could theoretically contribute to a crappy product, if only by making the teams I care about economic losers.

So perhaps in a way there may be a way to judge whether the new CBA is objectively better than the old one. In 6 years, when this one expires, is there another strike or lock-out? Does the new CBA lead to the economic collapse of the Flames or the Oilers or the Canucks? If so, then this CBA is a bust. If not, then not. As far as everything else goes, Matt, it'll be about the game, baby.

As it should be. Finally.


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