I was wasting my day away with some buddies over FIFA 13, the calm before the storm that is finals’ week. I look down at my twitter feed and see a tweet from Pierre Lebrun.
Fehr feels both sides should be able to reach a deal given what players have come back with. Feels there's a complete agreement on "dollars"
Shocked. I’ve been waiting on this tweet for 6 months now. I unfortunately had to bail on the FIFA tournament and lock myself in my room. I pulled up Toronto’s TSN 1050 on the external speakers, blaring, (I don’t know why I like doing this).. and it just began to unravel.
Donald Fehr had already announced he needed to address the media a second time and at this point you could hear the excitement in the panel’s voices, a panel that included Bob Mckenzie and Darren Dreger. They cut to a live feed of Donald Fehr when he uttered the gut-wrenching words, “There’s been a development... it’s not positive.”
By the way, just outstanding coverage by TSN. They went back and forth between Dreger/Mckenzie and live broadcasts for over two hours. It was the best... or maybe the worst two hours of my life. I really can’t decide.
Just moments after they concluded the first press conference, Steve Fehr received a voicemail from Bill Daly that just crumbled any hope that anyone tied to these negotiation had obtained in the last 48 hours. They didn’t just reject the NHLPA’s latest offer, they rejected, pulled everything they could off the table, and then broke the table in half.
And when I say they pulled everything they could off the table, I’m talking $100,000,000 of make whole. The NHL has made concessions the last two days that tells me they’re wanting to get the ball rolling.
It all just sounded so surreal. Donald Fehr was speaking with absolutely zero confidence. He even sounded a bit confused at times. As if he were in a state of shock. He answered every question with a reference to ‘the voicemail’. A voicemail he seemed to not expect.
The hockey world hit an all time low. Journalist’s were packing their bags when it was announced Gary Bettman intended on hosting a press conference as well. A press conference that will be replayed in the hockey media for a long, long time.
Gary dug in. Took on questions for over 40 minutes. You could sense the sadness, the disappointment, the anger. The broadcast commented on how they had never heard Bettman display so much emotion and with so much willingness. He appeared human for the first time in his long tenure. Not without a cost, as he made it very clear that the sides were no closer than they were long ago, before these marathon meetings even began.
But really, who was I to believe they could end this madness? Who was I to believe that these owners and players could strike a deal.. when the two people that have to agree weren’t even in the negotiating room? Bettman said Monday that he wanted a deal by this Friday. It's Thursday night and he’s sending everybody home.
I am distraught. I just don’t know how to react to this. This is my account of the night that broke my hockey spirit. I left my room and returned to my friends and my FIFA. They asked, “so do you get your hockey back?”
All I could mutter, “shut up and play me.”
Michael Martin @mmartinutk
University of Tennessee