You're sick of hearing about it, you want a resolution and that's it. You don't care about the key players in this negotiation - you hate Bettman anyway and the likes of Bill Daly, the Fehr Brothers and so on and so forth could matter less.
I think that's the sentiment for most fans, really. Perhaps you're an NHLFA'er, or have found solace in (and taken up) the Just Drop It Pledge. Or maybe you've just become too apathetic to care? The lockout has taken away your love, your team, your sport, and pushed you away.
Those perspectives are understandable. Yet for some people, this whole charade between the NHL and NHL Players Association has drawn interests for its theatrics and politics. The negotiations (and sometimes the lack-there-of) is the entertainment in lieu of the product (that being NHL hockey) being idled by its own maleficence. While most people simply wait for a resolution, others who have paid some attention to the 2012 NHL Lockout likely formulated an opinion or - perhaps - took a side in the game of Owners versus Players.
The question of the week doesn't revolve around blame, that's too easy to dole out. The question is more along the lines of a stronger opinion formulated through the news that's been in public view the past four months during this ordeal.
Finish this sentence, "The villain of the 2012 NHL lockout is..."
I posed that question to Raw Charge staff writers and members of the Tampa Bay Lightning blogosphere, with one rule: no catch-all, "everyone is guilty" answers. "Biggest villain" denotes a singular entity that tops them all. And while it's easy to say that ego may be the biggest villain, that's another catch-all answer. Ego is indeed a villain, but that can be an ongoing crime of humanity in general.
We've had a poll up for about a week here on Raw Charge asking who the biggest villain of the lockout is, citing five key figures and an optional sixth... The responses to this week's question didn't go directly for those key figures in most cases, and that makes for interesting responses. Take a look.
Justin Godfrey - The Hopeful Chase
To me, the biggest "villain" in this process would be the players union. I'd like to pick one player, but I wasn't in the room to see who said, "Hey let's call Donald Fehr!" They decided to bring Donald Fehr into their camp as a group and so they get lumped together. You can't blame Fehr for what he's done during this process any more than you can blame a lion for gnawing on a gazelle Fehr is doing what he does, being ornery, confrontational and deluding the players into thinking they can actually get the upper hand in this negotiation.
On the flip-side Gary Bettman is acting exactly like we knew he would- condescending, snide and killer of any joy that might emerge. He knows he is on the winning side (let's face facts this lockout is ending when the owners say it' ending) and there is no reason to castigate him for holding the hammer. The players poked the hornet's nest by hiring Fehr in the first place, if they had chosen a more flexible adviser perhaps this mess would be over by now.
Alternative villain - the phrase "the hill we die on."
Kyle Alexander Abney - Lightning 101
That's certainly difficult to pinpoint, but it is hard for me not to point my finger first at Bettman and the owners he represents. Remember that when the last CBA was about the expire, the players extended an olive branch and were willing to play the 2012-2013 season under the old CBA (the one essentially written by Bettman and co. after the last lockout) while negotiations continued. If that offer had been accepted, all of his posturing and proposing we've seen these past months could have been happening alongside NHL hockey. That this is a lockout, and NOT a strike, makes it difficult for me to blame anyone on the player's side. They deserve their share of the blame, but if you're asking me to point the finger in one direction, I don't see how it is at anyone but Bettman.
Dolly Reynolds - Bolts by the Bay
My key person to blame is not Gary Bettman, though I absolutely cannot stand the weasel, not Donald Fehr, but Jeremy Jacobs. Sure, I hate the Boston Bruins. But this has nothing to do with what team the guy owns. Jeremy Jacobs is a bully. He's got an attitude, and expects everyone to bow down to him. Yes, he's owned the Bruins for more than 30 years and blah blah blah. That is no excuse to tell people when they can or cannot speak or what they can and can't say, simply because they are newer to the NHL.
Both sides are to blame in this mess. Nothing will get done unless both sides bend a little. With owners like Jeremy Jacob's and his 'my way or the highway' attitude, others are not likely to speak up and say 'well, maybe we can concede on this issue'. If Jeremy says it's not gonna happen, then it's not gonna happen. Bettman is just the owners' puppet. He does as they tell him. He still has his job because they want him in place. (But I still can't stand the weasel!)
Clare Austin - Raw Charge staff writer
It's not like there's a shortage of obvious villains in this mess. I've been mad at all of the Big Idiots (Bettman, Fehr, Jacobs) at one point or another and I'm kind of mad at them all right now. But to me the biggest villains in the piece are the lawyers. I don't mean this in the sense that Bettman and Fehr both have law degrees. I mean, specifically, the firm of Proskauer Rose who are advising the NHL on the lockout. When you hear about the "lockout playbook" that the league is consulting, that's Proskauer Rose's playbook. Don't believe me? They also advise the NFL, the NBA, and MLB. The only one of those leagues without a lockout in the past 4 years? The one Don Fehr beat into submission. The NFL has had 2 in one season. They also advised the league in 2004-05. It's quite a pattern. As The Nation's Dave Zirin put it:
"In practice, this has meant that in four sets of negotiations with four very different economic issues at play, we get the same results: lockouts and a stack of union complaints with the National Labor Relations Board."
In the end, I can't blame the pettiness and emotional immaturity on the lawyers, and may very well have more to do with the outcome than the plan. But the biggest single villain has to be the damn lawyers.
Jason Haas - Sons of Andreychuk
The biggest villain of the 2012 lockout is Twitter.
I love Twitter, I really do. It's a terrific way of keeping up with friends and getting instant news. That instant news, though, has made the highs and lows of this lockout even higher and lower. Anger and missteps are a part of every labor negotiation, but when Nick Kypreos tweets that Steve Fehr just grimaced, it's hard not to get caught up in the moment. On a different note, it's been quite annoying to watch people from all sides use Twitter as a PR chip. Whether its #theplayers or anything else, both sides have shown how little they care for the fans by playing their emotions like a violin.
I'll be grateful when this lockout ends, as will all fans who want the game back. In the meantime, though, I'll be trying to stay level-headed as people retweet what color Gary Bettman's tie is for the next negotiating session.
Alexis Boucher - Sons of Andreychuk
As the lockout stretches on, it's easy to pass blame around. Bettman, Fehr, Jacobs, Daly. It's tough to say who really is the source of the most villainy in these proceedings. It took a while for me to come up with an answer here. When I did, I certainly didn't like it.
We're to blame. You, me, the guy in the construction helmet with a goal light two sections over. We're villains and we've done it to ourselves. After losing the 2004-05 season we returned to the league in droves. We bought merchandise, bought season tickets, and thought there was no way they could do this to us again. Fast forward 8 years and we're in the exact same spot. Judging by the number of people on social media, myself included, and wishing for the NHL to return... fans will be back en masse again.
What if we didn't? What if attendance across the league plummeted when play did resume? What if TV ratings were dismal? That's what happened to MLB when their fans walked away in the mid 90s. If hockey fans did the same it might give the NHL something to think about in planning for the future. It'll never happen, though. We'll be right back here again in another 5, 8, or 10 years. We're masochists with a short memory.