Trending Topics is a column that looks at the week in hockey, occasionally according to Twitter. If you're only going to comment to say how stupid Twitter is, why not just go have a good cry for the slow, sad death of your dear internet instead?
Remember last week?
They said, "Hey we're pulling Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr out of these negotiations, and letting players and owners talk face-to-face about their views."
The purpose of this, we were told, was to find more common ground with less posturing.
And we all laughed. Well, most of us.
After all, the NHL's contingent, six strong, included super-hawk owners like Jeremy Jacobs and Murray Edwards. Lining up opposite however-many players — turned out it was a whopping 18 — with no legal representation didn't seem the most conducive environment to laying the groundwork for any sort of deal, did it? These were businessmen, shrewd and mostly battle-hardened from past labor skirmishes, against guys who likely had little to no business background, and, if rumors were to be believed, had already spent previous meeting snickering up their sleeves at whatever the players had to say.
Add in the fact that both sides were to be drilled by Fehr and Bettman as to what they should and should not say, and it seemed on the outside that the acrimony was just too thick and frozen over for even the most moderate representatives on both sides to crack.
This wasn't going to be an easy or particularly pleasant Tuesday for either side.
But then everyone started, in increments, to see things the other side's way. Against all odds, so it would seem. The hockey world lost its collective mind. Sid Crosby and Rob Burkle, who reportedly flew to New York City from Pittsburgh together, came in as a sort of unified front in trying to get a deal done when others might have wanted to be more combative. "The Penguins save the NHL!" and all that kind of stuff.
Consequently, the two warring factions met for hours and hours and hours, went to dinner, came back, kept meeting. Christ, there was even a joint press conference featuring Bill Daly and Steve Fehr, who just over a week prior had been accused by his counterpart in the league of intentionally misleading players and stalling an agreement for ends that, well, who knows what they were?
Unbridled optimism ruled the day, though many very curiously couched it as being "cautious" despite the fact that the reaction to it was anything but. It was closer, in fact, to being hysterical optimism. People started tweeting about comeback scenarios.
Had GMs told coaches to start working out some stuff for training camps? Had teams contacted players? How many games might there be in this season? How does that affect advertising dollars? When might this season start? What possible layout might the schedule itself have?
I was as guilty as anyone of getting caught up in the hoopla.
Finally, the NHL really and truly and definitely looked like it was totally and completely and finally going to come back after abandoning fans lo these past two months. Call your local cable provider, guys and gals, you'll be staying up until 1 a.m. watching west coast games before you know it.
It all seemed a little convenient to some, and that was understandable as well.
Some pointed out that the thawing of relations came almost two weeks to the day after Bettman said the sides should take a two-week break. Then there was the Steve Burton report, which indicated the sides had met in secret prior to the player/owner meetings (unlikely), and brought a reasonable end to this Cold War within sight (still to be seen). All of that, by the by, certainly did little to dissuade anyone that the NHL entered into the lockout with a drop-dead date in mind. How coincidental.
Then Wednesday came.
Everyone was still taking great care to attach the word "cautious" before anything that even sounded like "optimism," all acknowledged that this would indeed be a harder day than Tuesday's Kumbaya-and-s'mores fest. That proved to be true, but no one could have reasonably guessed just how bad things would get. Both sides made proposals, for example, but it seems as if they were given only slightly more of the due consideration with which Bettman and Co. weighed things on the NHLPA's three-offer day.
Ryan Miller may or may not have screamed at Jeremy Jacobs, as he is wont to do with members of the Bruins organization. People entered and left separate and joint meeting rooms so often that they might as well have been outfitted with revolving doors. The hockey world actually waited breathlessly for a podium to do something (it didn't). Players and owners alike emerged with semi-disconsolate one-sentence reviews of the proceedings, and not one in any way justified the way fans and media alike had been busting at the seams about a potential deal getting done in the near future.
Nonetheless, gaps that were bridged on Tuesday at least seemed not to have been put to the torch, so that was at least something. The word was that the sides were at the very least closer together, not long after federal mediators had abandoned talks for their being too far apart.
Then the NHLPA, like someone who gets frustrated when they land on Boardwalk with a hotel, swept all the pieces off the board and did the unthinkable: Asked if Don Fehr could come back into the meetings.
Well, that was the end of that, as you might imagine.
Fehr comes back, Bettman comes back, and we're right back where we started. Hell, the PA even said the mediators should be brought back less than a week after they didn't even see a way they could accomplish anything. Owners, for their part, said they wouldn't bother showing up because they're Yosemite-Sam-levels of mad at Don Fehr, darn it.
So then Fehr goes out and gives a press conference saying, "Oh yeah we have all this figured out," gets a phone call, then comes back and says, "Turns out we don't and if anything we're now farther apart. That's pretty weird I guess. Anyway like I dunno we'll have more meetings?" It's a flaming disaster at this point. No one, not even Don Fehr, has the slightest idea what's going on.
So really, the question is pretty obvious to me. It's not, "When will this get resolved?" or, "What needs to happen for talks to move forward?" or even, "Will mediation help?" It's pretty obviously, "Why did we buy any of this for a second?"
Going into these meetings, we had all the information we needed to know that this wouldn't lead to much in the way of a happy outcome. You could have picked any number of reasons no one would show up for this. Team Jacobs and Edwards. Team Ryan Miller Being Involved And Predictably Shouting. Team No One With Final Authority. Team Obvious Gimmick That Wouldn't Accomplish Anything. Team Podium.
We deserve to be let down for having been so dumb.
We actually thought that something would solve this lockout before the season had to be scrapped. Wait, no. We actually thought something like this would solve this lockout before the season had to be scrapped. A small but obviously very important distinction. We should never have believed anything until they had a signed document and held it aloft for the ravenous hordes to see like a guillotined head in the French revolution.
What's that saying about the definition of insanity? Believing in the NHL's ability to not step in a fresh, hot turd every time it tries to accomplish something?
Well, that doesn't sound right. But it doesn't sound wrong either.
Pearls of Biz-dom
We all know that there isn't a better Twitter account out there than that of Paul Bissonnette. So why not find his best bit of advice on love, life and lappers from the last week?
BizNasty on growing your Personal Brand: "RT if want the NHL back and/or love Subway's white chocolate macadamia nut cookies."
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