McALESTER — What few fans the National Hockey League has left breathed a sigh of relief on Saturday as the players’ union voted to ratify the new collective bargaining agreement and end the lockout.
This latest loss of games marks the third lockout in the last three years. The NHL is the third professional league in which a lockout occurred, and Gary Bettman is the third commissioner to see a lockout happen on his watch.
In the last 20 years, the equivalent of almost two full seasons have been lost to bargaining and grandstanding between the NHL and the NHL Players Association.
Hockey’s back, and everything’s fine now, but for how long? Fans can’t help but wonder if another lockout isn’t coming 10 years from now when the new CBA ends.
A negotiation process that results in canceled games is a bad negotiating process. Someone must hold the two sides accountable for this gridlock, but who?
A troubling lack of accountability exists in the upper echelons of professional sports. Three league-ordered lockouts in the last 20 years, when none had occurred in the 80 previous years — the players’ strike in 1992 didn’t cost any games — is, simply put, unacceptable.
Because Bettman has no one to answer to, he has no one to fear and he can run the league however he wants. A similar tyranny exists in Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association and the National Football League.
So the challenge falls to the fans. No matter how these leagues and teams make their money — advertising revenue, ticket sales, etc. — all of it still comes from the fans.
So hockey fans, if you’re sick of Gary Bettman — and you really should be — the solution is simple: Stop watching NHL games. Prove to Bettman that you won’t keep coming back to a league that has shown how little it cares about you three times since 1994.