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NHL lockout makes absolutely no sense

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to the media in Toronto, Ont., Aug. 15, 2012. (VERONICA...

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman speaks to the media in Toronto, Ont., Aug. 15, 2012. (VERONICA HENRI/QMI Agency)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:23 AM ET

EDMONTON - It seems rather odd that NHL owners are hurrying to sign as many players as possible under the current CBA before locking those same players out because the current CBA just isn't working.

But that actually sums up hockey's latest labour strife perfectly: it makes absolutely no sense, millionaires squabbling with billionaires over who gets the bigger slice of an obscenely big pie.

If the players were a little more understanding and the owners were a little less stupid, they could solve this thing in a week.

But they aren't, and they probably won't.

Why should owners worry about making smart business decisions, like not putting hockey teams in places where 12-year-olds knew they couldn't survive and not trying to cheat their way around their own salary cap, when all it takes to get about $350 million in taxpayer money for a new arena is stamping their feet and threatening to leave town?

And why should players settle for $4 million a season when they can get $4.5 million? Think it's easy scoring 12 goals a year?

So another iceberg is dead ahead and they are running out of time to turn the ship -- a second lockout in seven years appears imminent. Not only are the NHLPA and NHL far apart on how much league revenue the players should be entitled to, they can't even agree yet on what counts as league revenue.

"We want to start the season on time," said Edmonton Oilers winger Taylor Hall. "We just want what's fair for both sides."

How about 50-50, with the players admitting they couldn't survive without the owners and the owners admitting they couldn't survive without the players?

Nah, too easy. Better to just shut down the league and fight for 55%.

"I want to play hockey, but I'm not the brains of this thing," said Oilers foot soldier Theo Peckham, who trimmed 10 pounds over the summer in an attempt to re-establish himself as a presence on Edmonton's blue-line, readying himself for a training camp that might not happen.

"You don't want to let it become something where you're counting down the days and if affects your everyday life, but it's only a couple of weeks away."

And once it starts, history shows that lockouts don't end quickly. The last two (in 1994 and 2004) lasted 36 and 82 games.

It all boils down to who blinks first.

The NHL's Jan. 1 Winter Classic in Michigan is supposed to be a significant pressure point for the league -- they can't afford to lose their biggest U.S. television showcase.

After that, pressure shifts on the players, who'll have gone three months without an NHL paycheque.

In 2004, after rounds and rounds of rhetoric and proposals, the NHL finally shut it down for good in the second week of February.

The players admit they have no idea how all of this is going to play out, only that they have complete faith in their union boss.

"We have a lot of confidence in Donald Fehr," said Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk, one of Edmonton's player reps. "He's an extremely educated man and he has a great process about doing things. He's very informative and he's very informed himself."

And, by extension, so are the players. They seem far more organized than the guys who caved in last time.

"We know what's going on," said Dubnyk. "We're not just a bunch of hockey players yelling on the other side of the table."

What do they do if it turns into a black winter? Marquee players get to pick and choose their destinations. Shawn Horcoff went to Sweden last time and Ales Hemsky played at home in the Czech Republic.

This time Taylor Hall says he'll head to Europe, Sam Gagner is exploring Switzerland, Nail Yakupov is going back to Russia and a player with the drawing power of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins can go wherever he wants.

For rank-and-file players, finding work isn't quite so easy.

"I have no idea," shrugged Peckham when asked about his lockout plans. "I guess it's either Europe or the Quebec semi-pro league."


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