Anyone who believed the National Hockey League and the players’ union were serious about ending the lockout that threatens to scuttle the entire season probably lost a little hope over the weekend when this headline appeared: “NHL and union meet for small, informal lunch.” Sorry, we thought this was important business. Salad, mineral water and chitchat don’t fall into the category of serious negotiations, not when millions in lost revenues are at stake for broadcasters, sports bars and other businesses that depend on the NHL. And especially not when the loyalty of fans is on the line.
These on-again, off-again talks have gone on too long and borne too little fruit. And we’re not the only ones to say it. “They have to accept that responsibility to sit down and get a deal done,” the great Bobby Orr said on Friday during a visit to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. “Shame on them if they don’t do that.”
At this point, no one can honestly say they have the impression the league and the players see this as a pressing issue. The most recent talks, on Sunday, lasted less than an hour and settled little. It was just another of those frequent “candid discussions” between the two sides, before they walk away and brood alone in their corners while nothing happens.
Nothing, except money is lost by people who need it far more than the owners, the league and the players ever will. Nothing, except that the faith of the league’s fans is further abused and eroded. Nothing, except the NHL and its players lose more credibility. Bobby Orr is right: This is a shameful exercise that otherwise good people need to bring to an end immediately.