2012 Villain: NHL Lockout
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2012 Villain: NHL Lockout

Nominated for: taking hockey away from us.

Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains: the very best and very worst people, places, things, and ideas that have had an influence on the city over the past 12 months. From December 10 to 19, we’ll unveil the nominees, grouped by category. Vote for your favourites from each batch, every single day! On December 19 and 20 the winners from each category go head-to-head in the final round of voting, and on December 21, we will reveal your choices for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.

So here we find ourselves again: watching and waiting for any incremental progress in ending the latest lockout between NHL owners and players—the third work stoppage under Commissioner Gary Bettman—as yet another season slowly slips away. It’s disconcerting to think that just eight years ago, an entire season was lost to supposedly ironing the fundamental differences between the two sides, only to find them back at a contentious bargaining table this year.

While it’s now customary to see Bettman being derided in the court of public opinion, the amount of ire directed at him this time around has reached heights previously only reserved for wrestling heels. With his smug demeanour and stubborn negotiating tactics, it’s clear why he has been singled out as one of the main causes of the league’s troubles. On the other side of the table is Donald Fehr, executive director for the NHLPA, a man also embroiled in his third lockout, having served the same role previously for MLB players in two separate labour disputes.

What the stalemate amounts to is an ongoing debate about how best to divide increasing revenue. Without getting too involved in the particulars (which have already been thoroughly dissected by analysts who would surely prefer to be discussing plays on the ice rather than salary caps and revenue sharing), the crux of the disagreement appears to concern the length of both player contracts and, more broadly, the new collective bargaining agreement.

Negotiations didn’t exactly get off to a rosy start when both sides made it clear from the outset just how far apart they were. Before long, the mood behind closed doors became so heated that the best idea anyone could come up with was to take some time off from meetings. The true depth of the rift came into focus when federal mediators spent two days attempting to find common ground, only to determine there was nothing they could do. The most recent step was to remove Bettman and Fehr’s formidable egos from the talks altogether, allowing owners and players to sit down together directly.

Regardless of when a deal for a new collective bargaining agreement is reached, it’s hard to imagine that any of the wealthy people in either camp will be among those most affected by the time and money lost. The biggest losers are sure to be teams’ employees and establishments counting on patrons looking for beer and grub while taking in a game. Of course, it’s fans who will ultimately be forced to decide if they want to invest their time and energy again in a league so regularly beset by this kind of unrest. They all deserve so much better than this.

See the other nominees in the Culture and Sports category:

Margaret Wente

Plagiarism, and laziness of epic proportions.
  Factory Theatre Board of Directors

Losing their community’s trust.
  NFB Funding Cuts

Forcing the Mediatheque closure.

John Farrell

Checking out even before he left the team.
  CBC Funding Cuts

Weakening one of our national institutions.
  Sedwick Hill

For the untimely death of the Toronto Underground Cinema.

Cast Your Ballot