(Please note: the following is a fictional, satirical, yet wholly plausible letter that could [and possibly should] be written by Donald Fehr.)
Good afternoon, everyone, and thanks for coming.
I understand that, right now, I am either public enemy number one, or public enemy number two, depending on your take on which of us is more to blame for the current state of the NHL: me, or Gary Bettman. While animosity toward me is currently fashionable, I would like to take some time during this holiday season to ask you to find a new target for your venomous letters, emails, texts, Tweets, Facebook updates, and so on. After all, I’m just a person with a job to do, and it’s not my fault that I’m doing my job so well.
When I was first contacted by the members of the National Hockey League Players Association, I assumed it was just an effort to reach out to me and pick my brain on a few issues related to labor negotiations. Never in my wildest dreams did I think the NHLPA would be foolish enough to give me an opportunity to complete the task I had started, but ultimately failed, when I started working for the MLBPA: namely, the complete and utter collapse, and subsequent disappearance, of a professional sports league.
But they did, and here we are today.
You see, I hate sports. Hate them like terrorists hate democracy. Hate them like guys hate Twilight. It should be painfully obvious that as a child, I was always picked last when my classmates played sports at recess, and sometimes, I wasn’t even picked at all. Some days, my peers decided that they would rather be down a man than have Donald “Fear the” Fehr on their side. After a few years of that, I decided to complain to my teachers about my classmates’ unfair practices, and from that point on frivolous games such as kickball , football, and baseball were no longer allowed during recess at my school. From that point on, I realized that I had a calling in life, a destiny to fulfill, and while I managed to preside over the cancellation of one of the most beloved, iconic sporting events of all time – the World Series – Major League Baseball somehow managed to survive me, and is back to being popular again.
Trust me, I won’t make the same mistake twice.
Now many of you might be asking yourself, “But why hockey? It’s not one of the major sports; how much resentment could you have towards it?” Good, but stupid, question. First of all, I hate all team sports. All of them, from basketball to broomball. Every team sport ever invented fosters arrogance, a sense of entitlement, and a heightened feeling of disdain for anyone not in the sports clique. Hockey, despite its low profile in the United States, is no different. Plus, have you ever smelled a hockey bag? Good lord, the stench is enough to end a marriage. I’d say those reasons as as good as any to make me want to kill off the NHL.
But let’s be realistic here: I’m not the bad guy. Before you throw that computer you’re using to read this across the room, stop to think about this: I’m only doing what the players and owners want me to do. If you think for an instant that the players and owners actually want the NHL to survive the 2012-2013 season, you’re only deluding yourself. If that was the case, this labor dispute would not have even reached the lockout stage. Consider: the sport has never been more popular, or prosperous. Hell, the owners themselves admitted this in the complaint they submitted to the court earlier this week: Paragraph 102 – “The system of common employment rules instituted in 2005 improved the financial stability of the entire NHL, including most of its clubs . . . .” What kind of league allows a lockout to occur when the previous CBA resulted in unprecedented growth and revenue? A suicidal one, that’s your answer. I don’t know why the NHL owners are so self-destructive, but they are, and anyone with a reptilian brain can see that.
As for the players . . . I know it’s easy to sympathize with them, falling under their spell of “we just play for the love of the game” mantra . . . but hello! They hired me to represent their union. When the Devil shows up at the priest’s door, it ain’t to confess. The players are guilty by association, and they knew what they were getting when they gave me the call. You all sympathize with the players because many of you hate your bosses and feel you are over-worked and under-paid, too . . . except none of you are millionaires playing a sport for a living. How under-paid and over-worked do you think these guys really are? This isn’t an example of the little man fighting the good fight; it’s the rich against the richer, and the players want the same thing the owners want: more money, baby.
So this holiday season, give me a break. Don’t wish for coal in my stocking, a hard-as-a-brick fruitcake to fall on my noggin, or a package of cherry bombs to go off in my face. Instead, enjoy your family and friends, kick back, and enjoy the sports that actually want your support. Your NHL has a death wish, and I’ve been brought in to put it out of its misery.