Heated Labor Talks A Risky Move For NHL

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NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has the league on the verge of its second work stoppage in a decade. (AP)
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman could soon see his league in its second work stoppage in a decade. (AP)

Thursday's negotiations between the National Hockey League and the players the league is threatening to lock out went well.

That's because the discussion was limited to matters such as regulations on training camp, discipline, ice conditions and travel.

Previous negotiations have not gone well, and neither will the ones scheduled for Wednesday, because they will be about money.

The owners maintain that the players are still getting too much of it: 57 percent of the hockey revenue. They've suggested that 43 percent might be acceptable. The players maintain that having swallowed an enormous pay cut during the last lockout seven years ago, they won't take another big hit.

Are you still awake? I'll push on. There appears to be an excellent chance that another pro sports season won't start as scheduled. The NBA could sort of afford to erase the beginning of the most recently completed basketball season. In fact, who even remembers that games that counted didn't begin until Christmas Day? The five months of regular season games were plenty, no? Maybe the NBA should hold off until Christmas each year.

But the NHL is not the NBA. It's not the NFL, either, or Major League Baseball, and it's losing ground to Major League Soccer. The NHL is marketing a sport about which people in a lot of parts of the country don't much care. It's got nasty concussion issues, and on its worst nights, the highlights are tussles clumsy and pointless enough to embarrass the producers of World Wrestling Entertainment, and those people are not easily embarrassed.

For the sake of the players and the people living in the relatively few neighborhoods where hockey is huge, I hope NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and the team owners he represents will soon realize that locking the players out and putting another season in jeopardy would be a business move so dumb that it would make losing money look smart.

This segment aired on August 18, 2012.

Bill Littlefield Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield was the host of Only A Game from 1993 until 2018.



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