Thanks, NHL

Thanks, NHL

Imagine you work for a company that manufactures and
distributes a variety of products – hey, maybe you do! Each product is unique
in some way, and therefore assembled at a different factory, perhaps even at
locations spread across the continent. You might explain to friends and family
that you work for whatever particular brand your department is involved with,
but technically you are a tiny part of a much larger entity.

Now suppose a relatively small number of the company’s
factories are struggling to turn a profit, or at least break even. Why? Probably
because a particular factory is making a product the general public isn’t
interested in. The factory doesn’t necessarily require shutting down, although
that is an option. However, it could be converted to manufacture a different
product, or some of the profits from the other factories could be used to cover
some of those losses if the product was deemed somehow useful.

After all, we’re talking about an enormous company, and one
that is currently experiencing record growth at that – meaning they are taking
in more money than ever.

Except rather than re-purpose a few factories, operate them
at a loss, or shut down one or two, that enormous company which for the most
part is doing extremely well decides it’s much easier if they can take the
money from you, their employee. We’re not simply talking about negotiating a
lower share of revenues with your union reps when the time comes, either – but yes,
that too. The company demands all of its factory workers take a 24% pay
cut across the board, or it will cease operations.

Meanwhile, many of these individual departments have been so
overwhelmingly successful of late that they were able to give several of those
same employees huge raises as recently as a couple months ago. Who knows, maybe
you were one of the lucky ones. However, because the company is unable to
properly manage all of its assets, and is unwilling to take steps to rectify
the real problems, the money is supposed to come out of your pocket.

Now tell me: even if you were in your dream job, can you
honestly say you would take this lying down? You would agree to a significant
salary rollback in addition to a smaller share of the company’s overall
revenues – not to mention agree to policies some of which are designed almost
solely to suppress pay – when there are alternative solutions? When your union
just agreed to massive salary rollbacks eight years ago?

Replace the word company with NHL, and factory with the word
team. This is the lockout in a nutshell, folks, and yeah, I’m choosing sides.
The real question is why aren’t you?

***

Federal mediators spent two days on this before throwing
their hands in the air and walking away on Thursday. The season is all but lost
now. Yet the common refrain I most often read or hear in reference to any
hockey-related discussion is both players and owners are being greedy, so to
hell with them both.

For the record, greed is marked in part by a selfish and/or
excessive desire for more, according to Merriam-Webster. The players aren’t
actually asking for more here. They are mostly asking employers to honor their
word.

True, owners have since backed off of a 24% reduction in pay
– but they have not backed off of a salary rollback entirely, and that seems to
be the main hang-up here. The supposed “make whole provision” doesn’t actually
make these contracts whole, you see.

Maybe a professional athlete is not your typical person, but
lately he seems to be sharing the plight of many typical workers in today’s
world. Obviously clubs would not have offered contracts to players that they
could not afford to pay, so why should the working-class guy (relatively
speaking) take a hit after the fact? And bear in mind, this isn’t just any
business – if you happen to own a professional sports franchise, you were
probably doing fairly well to begin with. The owners are already wealthy.

Never mind the fact that you’ve probably never attended a
sporting event of any kind because of who was sitting in the owner’s suite.
Some fans tend to begrudge athletes because they make millions of dollars, but
it’s an industry the fans built and support. How much of that money should line
one man’s pockets, a man who is hardly visible in most cases, as opposed to
those who are performing the skilled labor?

Which is not to say the NHL has no case at all. Both the NFL
and NBA reached agreements to distribute a lower percentage of revenue to
players within the past 18 months, and pro hockey almost certainly needs to
follow suit. Having said that, those other leagues never mandated salary
rollbacks on contracts already signed. And you can’t make the case the NHL was
ever bargaining in good faith when you look at the size of the contracts that
were handed out during this summer’s free-agency period.

The players aren’t under some moral imperative to accept an
unfair deal any more than any other human being just because they play a game for a
living. This is their livelihood, and somebody is trying to take it from them.

Best of NHL: Patrick Kane hat trick lifts Blackhawks over Coyotes

Best of NHL: Patrick Kane hat trick lifts Blackhawks over Coyotes

CHICAGO -- Patrick Kane scored three goals for his third career hat trick to lead the surging Chicago Blackhawks past the Arizona Coyotes 6-3 on Thursday night for their third straight win and eighth in nine games.

Kane has 23 goals to lead Chicago, which closed within three points behind first-place Minnesota in the Central Division and Western Conference.

Rookies Nick Schmaltz and Ryan Hartman each had a goal and assist. Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival scored his first goal of the season in his first game since Jan. 15.

Chicago captain Jonathan Toews added two assists to extend his points scoring streak to five games and increase his output to 22 points in his past 13.

Jakob Chychrun, Ryan White and Radim Vrbata scored for the Coyotes. Chychrun and Vrbata each scored for the second straight game (see full recap).

Rangers outlast Maple Leafs in shootout
TORONTO -- Mika Zibanejad scored the shootout winner and the New York Rangers continued a strong February with a 2-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Henrik Lundqvist made 32 saves and J.T. Miller scored the game-tying goal in the third period for the Rangers, who improved to 8-1-1 this month.

New York moved into third place in the Metropolitan Division with 80 points.

Connor Brown scored for Toronto, which fell to 1-7 in shootouts this season. Frederik Andersen had a stellar performance in defeat with 37 saves.

The Leafs hold the third playoff spot in the Atlantic Division (68 points), two points back of Ottawa (70) and four back of Montreal (see full recap).

Islanders shut out Canadiens
MONTREAL -- Rookie Anthony Beauvillier scored in the first period, Thomas Greiss made 24 saves, and the New York Islanders beat the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 Thursday night.

Anders Lee scored in the second period and John Tavares added an empty-netter in the final minute to seal the Islanders' third straight win. New York has won the first two games on a crucial nine-game road swing and improved to 12-4-2 since interim coach Doug Weight replaced the fired Jack Capuano.

Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson each had two assists, and Greiss got his third shutout of the season.

Carey Price finished with 21 saves as the Canadiens lost coach Claude Julien's 1,000th NHL game. Montreal is 1-2-0 since Julien replaced Michel Therrien last week and has totaled just 14 goals while going 2-7-1 in the last 10 games, including four shutouts (see full recap).

Best of NBA: Rockets crush Pelicans to spoil Cousins' debut

Best of NBA: Rockets crush Pelicans to spoil Cousins' debut

NEW ORLEANS -- The Boogie-and-Brow era in New Orleans is off to a highly inauspicious start.

The Pelicans' tandem of newly acquired All-Star DeMarcus Cousins and All-Star Game MVP Anthony Davis was no match for the surging Houston Rockets on Thursday night.

Reserve Lou Williams hit seven 3-pointers and scored 27 points in his Rockets debut, and Houston crushed New Orleans, 129-99.

Davis had 29 points, and Cousins finished with 27 points and 14 rebounds. But New Orleans turned the ball over 20 times couldn't keep pace with the firepower of the Rockets, who hit 20 3-pointers.

Eric Gordon scored 19 points and Ryan Anderson added 17 in both players' first game in New Orleans since leaving the Pelicans. James Harden had 13 points and 14 assists (see full recap).

LeBron triple-double powers Cavs past Knicks
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James recorded his 48th career triple-double and Kyrie Irving scored 23 points, leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to a 119-104 victory over the New York Knicks, who hung on to superstar Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose at Thursday's trade deadline.

James scored 18 points and had 13 rebounds with 15 assists for his sixth triple-double of the season.

Anthony, the subject of trade rumors because of a strained relationship with Knicks President of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson, scored 20 points, going 9 of 25 from the field.

Kyle Korver scored 20 points for Cleveland, which is 8-1 in February and has beaten New York 10 straight times.

Courtney Lee had 25 points for New York, which has lost six of seven and is 12th in the Eastern Conference playoff race (see full recap).

Pistons rally from 18 down to beat Hornets in OT
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 33 points, including three 3-pointers late in the fourth quarter during a pulsating Detroit rally, and the Pistons outlasted the Charlotte Hornets 114-108 in overtime Thursday night.

Caldwell-Pope scored Detroit's last 11 points of regulation, and his 3-pointer with 18.2 seconds to play tied the game at 100. Kemba Walker scored Charlotte's final nine points of the fourth, but the Pistons forced him to give up the ball on the last possession, and Marco Belinelli missed a 3-pointer that could have won it.

Detroit, which was behind by 18 in the third quarter, never trailed in the overtime. Caldwell-Pope's 3-pointer with 55 seconds remaining put the Pistons up 110-102.

Charlotte led 85-70 at the start of the fourth but missed 14 of its first 15 shots in the period, enabling Detroit to cut into the lead.

Walker scored 34 points. Tobias Harris had 25 for the Pistons (see full recap).