NHL's delay of game

November 29, 2012 

These nights the temperature dips toward freezing, but it’s becoming clear this is likely to be a December, and perhaps a winter, without ice.

Ice, that is, as in the white, oval, indoor version of a frozen Canadian pond around which the Triangle’s NHL fans expected to cheer on the Carolina Hurricanes.

Instead, this last day of November brings the NHL lockout to Day 76.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman estimates that each day without hockey costs the league’s 30 franchises $18-$20 million and the players $8-$10 million.

The cost elsewhere is harder to measure. Some team employees have been laid off or taken pay cuts. Vendors and arena workers have lost their markets and work hours. Even charities that rely on concession sales are hurt in this empty season in which everyone loses.

Who’s to blame? There’s enough blame for both sides, but it seems the balance belongs to the owners. They want players to trim their share of revenues and cap the length of their contracts. Mostly, the owners are asking to be saved from themselves and their habit of offering exorbitant contracts.

And it is the owners, after all, who slapped the padlock on the season. This is not a strike.

Yet, in a wider sense, it’s hard to accept why either side has turned their swift and thrilling sport into a stare-down across a negotiating table. Mediators have been brought in to referee, but they have no power to force an agreement.

At the amateur level, sport can teach discipline and teamwork. It can build character. But at the professional level, sport too often displays the failings of character, the main one being greed. Millions and millions of dollars are not enough. So there is nothing.

For those suffering from NHL hockey withdrawal, CBSsports.com offers a daily hockey fix. It includes simulations of the missed games so far using the technology of predictionmachine.com. In that exercise, the Canes lost to the Boston Bruins Thursday night and now stand at 9-16-4.

So maybe we’re not missing much. But in this case we would prefer the cold comfort of the real thing.

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