The build up to the current NHL lockout has been a very interesting one, especially considering the role of social media and how that has affected the PR battles over who might be right and who might be wrong. Twitter did not exist in 2004 and the term "social media" was likely unknown to a large part of the population, and now that medium has created a frenzy of information, speculation and conjecture that is nowhere near the levels experienced during the last lockout.
The minute details of the disagreements between both sides are much more out in the open these days, and perhaps that has served to only highlight just how particularly absurd such a disagreement might be. While this is certainly a business issue, with the fans caught in the middle, at the end of the day these are very rich people arguing with lesser rich people over who should get the bigger part of a very, very rich pie. There is more to it than that, of course -- this is also about the philosophy on how to actually better grow the business of the league -- but this is still a very interesting to fight to be having in this day and age.
What's more alarming is how social media has highlighted the "fighting" that is occurring between the NHL and the NHLPA, with both sides essentially hurling insults at one another over who has wronged the other the most. This is happening, of course, while players are quickly bailing to find alternate jobs in Europe or the KHL, while teams continued to sign players to lucrative contracts up until the very moment the deadline began and while owners continued to be their wonderful, successful selves.
All of this is happening, while hundreds -- if not thousands -- of people stand to lose their jobs or a significant part of their income because of this complicated yet incredibly simplistic disagreement.
Yesterday, the Ottawa Senators announced that layoffs have taken place within the organization, with team president Cyril Leeder stating that every employee has been affected.
"Every full-time, every part-time employee is affected by a work stoppage," Leeder said. "On the full-time employees they've either been laid off temporarily or gone to a four-day work week."
Given the possibility of a significant loss of revenue because of the lockout, it's not unexpected that some teams have had to face the harsh realities of the work stoppage. The Calgary Flames have told their employees to prepare for layoffs and others have only guaranteed jobs through for the next month or two before layoffs would be forced to occur.
Milan Michalek, ironically, will continue to be paid by the Senators while he rehabs from shoulder surgery. He was set earn $4.75 million this season.
It's not just the employees of the teams that are affected -- this is about the concession workers, the ushers, the building staff and all the other ancillary employees that will be affected around the league because of the lockout. For every game missed that will be the loss of a valuable paycheck for someone who was not able to "plan ahead," who is dependent on this income for their well being, to be able to feed their family or provide money for transportation. Many of these workers have multiple jobs, in a struggling economy where any income at all should be cherished.
There are thousands of people across North America who face an uncertain future because of this lockout. We're told that this could only last a month or so at most, that hockey could get going once more as soon as Thanksgiving. There's also the distinct chance the lockout could last longer; that another lost season is more than a possibility. While optimism might be called for in this situation, reality says that no one knows exactly what is going to happen.
We've been writing and discussing who is at "fault" in this situation for months now, whether that's the owners looking to ask the players for further wage cuts or the players for being too "greedy" and wanting a bigger part of the pie. What is abundantly clear, now that the reality of the lockout is upon is, is that the price being paid for this work stoppage extends far beyond fans losing the sport that they love.
This is about families attempting to figure out another way of generating income in a time when doing so is nowhere near as it as it was back in 2004 -- if it ever was easy to begin with.
Perhaps this is why fans are so upset over this particular lockout; that it just feels like a waste of time when you step back and look at the big picture of what is actually happening right now. We live in a time of economic troubles and while changes are certainly needed in the NHL -- that the two sides could not solve their disagreement before jobs were lost around the league is frustrating and just plain sad.
This isn't to say that the players or the owners do not care about the workers who have lost their jobs or face the loss of income in the immediate future. To say they do not care is disingenuous and unfair to both sides; there are several teams around the league who will go at great lengths to ensure their employees do not face this uncertainty -- the Dallas Stars being one.
What is clear, however, is that while Bill Daly and Tomas Vokoun hurl insults at one another through the media, while player after player signs a contract with another league on the other side of the world, the stark reality of this lockout is hitting hard working people much harsher than the lockout will ever hit the players or the owners.