If there is one thing that has been most frustrating about the ongoing CBA negotiations between the NHL and NHLPA, it's that there has been a noticeable lack of actual honesty when discussing the actual talks. It's to be expected, as each side has to fight for any leverage they can actually gain, and the PR battle is certainly part of that.
On Saturday night, however, Krys Barch decided to lay it out on Twitter in a refreshing and alarming bout of unchecked on honesty. It was also a bit of an odd choice of medium and language, but at the very least it was someone speaking out.
Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy referred to it as a "Jerry Maguire moment."
The NHL, meaning the owners, has locked out the players in a move that threatens to create at the very least a delay to the start of the regular season. We hear how the league wants to avoid any lost games, how the NHLPA wants to avoid any lost games -- yet there has not been a new proposal submitted by either side since before the lockout actually began.
Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr have met privately the first two days and while the two sides are actually negotiating, it seems the players are growing increasingly frustrated with the owner's stance on the core economics of the CBA. That frustration has apparently unleashed a wave of apparent honesty, with players turning to the media to let their true feelings be known.
Chris Botta tweeted on Saturday that he had received a text from a player saying that, "unless there's surprise turn soon, NHLPA views weekend meetings as a step back. Called NHL's actions "sickening."
Joffrey Lupul published what is called an "unadulterated opinion" on the current NHL lockout on AskMen.com, saying that the players understand that some teams are struggling but they want the help of the top franchises in the league to also provide some help. He also stated that he feels the lockout shows a lack of respect for the players.
The thing that is frustrating for us as players is this is the third time (second of my career) the players have been locked out by Gary Bettman and the owners. When I look at that, the first thing I think is that it shows a lack of respect for the fans. Secondly, it says to me that a lockout is the owners' choice form of negotiation and that they are 100% comfortable taking a lock-them-out-and-see-how-they-react approach. Lastly, and most concerning for players and fans alike, is the fact that the owners, under the guidance of Bettman, have shown that they are willing to let an entire season burn to accomplish their plan.
The initial outpouring of honesty and openness initially created a sense of panic amongst hockey fans on Twitter, as those following the live "essay" became concerned the mention of alcohol and that he "some times wondering if I should have existed when a word and a gun solidified and solved all problems."
After it became clear that Barch was actually lucid, in control and merely speaking his mind, an incredibly open look into the heart of the current lockout was revealed. Whether this was sincere or not (and you have to believe, coming from someone like Barch, that this was sincere) it's obvious that the message here is that the players are concerned with the health of the league and plainly feel that the owners are not doing the job that they need to be doing.
Barch also hit on a very important factor in this mess, that while there are a number of players that have signed exorbitant contracts over the years -- most players will never see that kind of money. In fact, most NHL players last only a few years at the top level and will likely spend most of their careers in the AHL or lower -- making far less money than what is made in the NHL.
Barch mentions that the players play a physical price that cannot be valued by a million-dollar contract, sacrifices that are made so that teams may work toward a profit and so that the league can continue to grow. It's easy to think about this being about "billionaires vs. millionaires" but it's important to remember that the majority of players in hockey never come close to the massive deals that are driving up salaries across the league, and helped create the reason why the owners felt a lockout necessary.
That being said, I don't feel this was a call for sympathy for the players. Just his thoughts, from his perspective as a current NHL player. Of course, when someone who makes millions of dollars is writing about his worry over the future -- it may not play so well with the rest of us who are struggling with much, much less.
It's also very important to remember that many people, those not lucky enough to be on the ice and making what even the lowest-paid players earn, are all struggling right now with the possibility of significant losses to income as the lockout continues. Those that work the concessions at game, the ushers, the merchandise kiosks. Those that work for the teams themselves who have already been laid off, face the probability of layoffs, or have already endured shortened work weeks and reduced salaries.
A single regular season game has not been canceled, yet it's becoming more and more clear that the idea of another round of lost games -- so soon after 2004-05 -- may be more than the league or fans can withstand. The owners say they absolutely cannot survive without significant concessions from the players, while the players want to ensure this situation isn't repeated again just a few years down the line.
It's a tough time in the world of the NHL, and one side has decided to let their true feelings be known.
Below, I've transcribed the entire "essay" by Barch -- both for ease of reading and just in case it is deleted, for whatever reason. I've maintained all spelling and most punctuation, doing my best to make it so that it can be easily read. Any changes to the original text are mine and for pure punctuation reasons.
I sit here from Gand Bend, Ontario putting a pen to my heart and writing on paper what bleeds out. My name is Krys Barch. I have played approx 5 1/2 years in the NHL and have worked for every second of it. I haven't been a 1st round pick, bonus baby or a son of a hall of famer. I have made it through sweating, bleeding, cut Achilles, broken hands, concussions broken orbital bones, 8 teeth knocked out, etc, etc, etc.
I sit in front of a fire, 8 OV deep and starting a bottle of Porte that will assist in the translations of my emotions to words! No different than a truck driver, farmer or line worker I have a shot and a beer. Not to deal with the days ahead but to ease the nerves from what my body has endured the days before.....
I sit here with both my boys sleeping and my wife due with our 3rd. My thoughts racing on what I can conquer tomorrow to get our family ahead. Some times wondering if I should have existed when a word and a gun solidified and solved all problems. I feel the Wild West would more simplified than the world we live in now whet an employer who makes billions of dollars and a league with record revenues can tell me that I can't do the things that my heart tells my me to do! All what my heart tells me to do far surpasses what my body has endured....
As I write this I dive deeper and deeper into my bottle of Porte giving wider views to the depths of my heart. As my pen warms from the fire, Neil Young and a fall Canadian night, I wonder how this work stoppage effects the owners? I wonder if the owners of Boston, New York, Washington, etc, etc, have endured any of the injuries that I or any other player in the NHL have endured. Still they probably sit their smoking the same brand of cigar, sipping the same cognac, and going on vacation to one of five houses they own while we sit here knowing they want to take 20% of our paychecks.
One half to 3/4 of my peers will have to work for the next 50 years of their lives. Congratulations to the lucky select few that I have played with who have made salaries that they can choose to do whatever they want when they are done. But I have played most who do not!
If the NHL wants to teams in the south or struggling markets than the players along with the financially well to do teams need to start working together. Or they need to start to move teams to the North where they will make money. The system allows the owners to continually take money from the players contract after contract where eventually over 40 some years the owners will have 80% of revenue. The only way to stop the work stoppages long into the future is fix the root cause of the problems.
The lockout is a procedure to take from the players to pay for the NHL mistakes. Let's not allow the NHL to make any more mistakes. Let the league and the players to come together to fix the mistakes that have been made and make sure none are made in the future. Lets get a deal where the owners, players, and fans benefit from. We're [sic] we can be sitting around in beautiful Canadian falls around a fire playing and watching the game we love. Here's to the truth and our next conversation.
As always speaking from my heart! Goodnight! Like me or hate me I speak what comes from my heart!