January 27, 2005
The same old storyLockout like 'Groundhog Day'
By STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun
Today is Day 134 of the hockey lockout and one stark matter has yet to change. There has not been a single negotiating session since the process began.
There have been meetings. There have been ideas shared. There have been offers made and rejected by both sides. There have been too many press conferences and too much rhetoric spoken.
But there has never been a reason to believe that either side had a clue how to solve this $2.1-billion puzzle.
So instead, we wake up every day and play the part of Bill Murray on screen. Every day is Groundhog Day, the hockey version. Only he got to hang with Andie McDowell.
All we get to do is play 'Guess The Hotel' and hope we have the right lobby.
And after a numbing while, the days sound the same, look the same, feel the same, but the story never changes. The story never gets better. Nothing gets solved.
There is optimism one minute and pessimism the next and the ping pong of emotions continue. With no settlement in sight. With no one really knowing where things stand. With the only game that's being played is called educated guessing.
And we can't be definitive about that.
On radio and on television we talk about the lockout all day long because there is only so much Rafael Araujo to go around. And in newspapers we write about it day after day because after a while there is only so much to be written about John McDonald playing shortstop for the Jays. And when we see our friends we say we hate the owners and we say we hate the players and we hope they all rot in hell -- all that said with a remote control in the other hand, waiting for the day we can watch the Maple Leafs or the Senators or the Flames once again.
The story, in truth, has never changed.
The owners seeking protection from themselves with terms such as cost certainty or linkage: The popular phrase, salary cap.
The players, willing to give back salary up front, with the knowledge in a system without a cap they will get it all back over time. Their popular phrase: Rollbacks and luxury tax.
The owners say any luxury tax is inflationary. The players say they can't live with a capping of their earning power. And so they dance in Chicago and in Toronto and in secret locations and the music never stops and the game never starts. A dance of doom drubbing all of us into our own submission.
All this so telling in a statement released by the NHL Players' Association. "After meeting today we have agreed to continue discussion and will not be making any further comment at this time.'
Which is precisely how I feel. I would like to not make any further comment at this time. I would like to stop writing this column over and over again. This has been Seinfeld without the laughs. A story about nothing we keep writing.
In September, when the doors were first closed on the players, I began a column by writing: "Wake me when it's over." But I couldn't pull it off. There are people out there dying for the lack of information we are providing.
Yes, many will interpret it as a good sign that the players and owners will meet again and aren't slagging each other publicly. Interpret being the key word.
But in this non-season where Mats Sundin has already lost $4.5 million US, can anyone make a case why it wasn't in his best interest to play under a cap?
And in this non-season where the Maple Leafs would be $10 million to the good by now, can anyone make a case why a luxury tax is inflationary?
Of course they can't. Which is why the talks continue. Maybe for the rest of our lives.