Q: What was the biggest mistake the players' union made?
You mean, other than canceling an entire season, then caving? The players' biggest mistake was trying to protect a salary structure that made no sense in the first place. Look, we all knew hockey players in high school and college -- they're good guys and hard workers, they stink like sweaty hockey equipment, they can drink until the cows come home, they have no problem walking around naked in front of other guys, and they would absolutely be happy playing professionally for $20 an hour. This is a blue-collar sport for blue-collar fans, people who should never have to pay more than $35 to $40 for a ticket. And the players fit right into that. So why pretend that hockey players should be getting $10 million to $12 million per year?
For instance, let's say you have a favorite diner near your house. What do we love about diners? They're inexpensive. The food comes out fast. The coffee is always good. The chef in the kitchen has an "I hope these customers didn't see me on 'America's Most Wanted' look on his face. The gum-snapping waitress is in her 50's, but there's still something sexy about her, despite the smoking wrinkles and the missing left index finger. And you can kick back, read your newspaper, enjoy a decent omelet, home fries and some buttered toast, and flirt with a 53-year-old woman who was probably Patient X for Hepatitis B back in 1971. What's better than that?
Well, imagine if they quadrupled the price at the diner, the food took three times as long, you couldn't see the chef, all the waitresses looked like Kathy Bates, and they added so many breakfast items to the menu that you almost needed a translator to read the menu? Would you ever go there again? Of course not. And that's what the NHL never realized until it was too late. It was the breakfast diner of professional sports leagues, nothing more. Unfortunately, it took a 301-day lockout -- as well as every cable channel basically saying, "Thanks, but no thanks" -- for everyone to realize this.