That's the question that everyone involved with the Collective Bargaining Agreement in the NHL is wondering. Players and owners have to all be wondering what the next step is since the league shot down the union's latest offer on Thursday night. Even after agreeing to an extended contract, despite their previous indications that long term deals weren't an option, the union couldn't even completely exit the stage after the latest negotiation meeting when union head, Donald Fehr had everyone return to the stage.
The NHL had not only rejected the players offer, but they, in essence, "picked up their toys and went home;" as they took every aspect of their offer (including the all important "make whole" provision) off the table. Both sides, after the league's rejection stated they didn't know what was next.
But the question I pose to you, our readers...hockey fans, is where do we go from here? We here at StarsInsider have encouraged everyone we reach to support local minor and junior teams. In most cases, the games are closer, or the very least easier to get to a they are generally located in suburban areas. The players are approachable as a large majority are literally playing because they love the game. Most of all, the games are cheaper than NHL tickets.
I've been saying since the lockout began in September that this could ultimately be the beginning of the end of the Bettman-era. In 2004, the options were limited to how die hard hockey fans could have an outlet. Now, for example, here in Texas, we have the Texas Tornado of the NHL, the Allen Americans of the Central Hockey League and of course the Texas Stars and Houston Aeros of the AHL. We have options. So what happens when the NHL returns to empty arenas? I have to think the owners will turn on Bettman, blaming him for the damage caused by a third lockout.
But what about the concession workers and the taverns that lay in the shadows of hockey arenas? Who did they have sitting at the negotiation table? What organization represents them and provides them a precentage of their salaries they're missing?
Fans are frustrated, and rightfully so. We work hard to provide essentials for our families with the hopes that we can "splurge" on occasion and watch our favorite teams play our favorite sport. Many of those "fans" took to social media and immediately lashed out at the players and media they follow. As completely unfounded the direction of their ire is, the players and journalists showed why we are so passionate about this game. They handled every tirade with class and took nothing personal.
Perhaps that's where we go from here. We become an even closer community that is bound together by ice and the occasional personified podium. We don't take sides anymore because quite frankly, it's impossible to know which side is legitimately working toward a deal and who is just trying to master the smoke and mirrors that goes with public relations. Besides, the NHL and NHLPA have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, neither of them are picking our side.