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Top 2012: The NHL’s inexcusable lockout

Dec 25, 2012, 9:30 PM EDT

Gary Bettman, Donald Fehr Getty Images

Reaching a new CBA was never going to be easy, but it shouldn’t have been this hard.

Here we are on Dec. 25 and there’s still no deal between the NHL and NHLPA. Officially the lockout is over 100 days old, and if the two sides can’t come together soon, the league will lose its second entire season in less than a decade.

It won’t be the only thing the NHL loses. Fans, respect, millions and millions of dollars — take your pick. For an industry that was enjoying record revenues, in a terrible economy no less, another lost season would be inexcusable.

Again, it was never going to be easy. The NHL’s problems are complicated. For all the parity on the ice, there’s very little off it. The owners want the players to help the league’s financially challenged franchises; the players want the owners to work it out between themselves. It’s a tough situation.

But it was made far tougher than necessary. From the NHL’s opening offer that it should have known would infuriate the players, to the union’s time-wasting forays into provincial labor boards, it’s impossible to justify the antagonistic tactics that both sides have employed repeatedly throughout this agonizing process.

Not to mention all the nauseating spin. The league using its low-ball offer as an artificial starting point and acting like it was making “concessions” every time it demanded slightly less from the players. The union’s constant reminders that the lockout was the owners’ choice and that the players would be delighted to play under the terms of the expired CBA while negotiating, as if that was ever going to happen in a million years.

None of that ridiculous rhetoric was intended to fool the other side. It was done to curry favor with the fans. And fans were rightly insulted by it.

For what it’s worth, we’re still optimistic there will be a season, if only because it would be so unfathomably foolish to let it slip away.

Then again, it’s been pretty unfathomably foolish already…

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