Hockey and politics have a long history together.
The owners of all 30 National Hockey League franchises voted last week to lock the players out pending the completion of a new collective bargaining agreement. The existing agreement, ratified in 2005, expired this week with owners seeking reduced player salaries and players insisting that owners implement a team revenue sharing system to address the league’s fiscal problems. No new talks are scheduled.
NHL players struck in April 1992, causing 30 games to be postponed. The 1994-95 lock-out ended after 103 days and the cancellation of 468 games. A year-long dispute forced the cancellation of the entire 2004-05 season when the league successfully held out for a cap on player’s salaries. This represents the third labor stoppage under the leadership of avowed hockey-hater Commissioner Gary Bettman, but not every player holds the commissioner responsible this time.
Tim Thomas, star goaltender for the Boston Bruins, blamed the lock out on a likely source – President Barack Obama. Thomas has been an outspoken critic of the President, even skipping his team’s traditional White House visit as a protest after winning the 2011 Stanley Cup. Blaming the U.S. President for the hockey lock out, however, represents a new level of vitriol in the pitched election battle between Obama and Mitt Romney, former Governor of a rabid hockey state.
“Obama claims he can be a friend of job creators, but during his administration, not one new job in hockey has been created. Zero. The NHL expanded under the Bush administration, adding Columbus and Minnesota. Under Obama, Atlanta left town and went to Canada. The record is clear. Obama is good for Canadian jobs, but not for American jobs,” Thomas asserted during a rambling news conference in which he took shots from the assembled media. “He just doesn’t give a puck about people.”
Mitt Romney, locked in a tight battle with the President for the Presidency, agreed with Tim Thomas’ comments. “I am from Michigan and I love hockey. I have many friends in the game that own franchises. I agree with Thomas even though he is a goalie. If the owners make more money, it’s common sense that those earnings will trickle down to the players. A rising tide lifts all yachts.”
“You know, as a young hockey player, I once scored a double play during the first quarter of a game.”
Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan, a product of Wisconsin, has deep roots in the game of hockey as well and joined in Thomas’ condemnation of Obama’s policies. “The game of hockey and this country need another Miracle on Ice, and with Barack Obama in the White House, all we can expect is a warming trend causing smaller ice surfaces. Hockey cannot thrive with a basketball fan in the Oval Office.”
President Obama was quick to support the players’ union, saying that a 10% reduction in player salaries across the board proves that ownership is not serious about a deal, and that they have only one objective – breaking the union. The Romney campaign immediately tweeted, “How sad. Hockey owners are attacked, and his first reaction is to apologize for foreign hockey players.”
The lock out is expected to be lengthy. Some players cannot wait until a collective bargaining agreement is signed and are taking their talents overseas. Penguins star forward Evgeni Malkin, brother of Fox News conservative firebrand Michelle Malkin, has signed to play in the KHL (Kommunist Hockey League), and Alex Ovechkin, the overweight Capitals’ former superstar, is prepared to join him.
Ovechkin was quoted in the Moscow Daily Worker as saying, “I like Russia to be playing in. I can see my house from here.”
Tim Thomas saw these player defections as another example of Obama’s anti-hockey policies strengthening his socialist benefactors. “I thought Obama was supposed to be pro-union, but I guess he meant pro-Soviet Union.”
When a reporter reminded Thomas that the Soviet Union no longer existed, Thomas waited until no one was looking and then he slashed the back of the reporter’s legs with his stick and applied a forearm blocker to his face.
"Hey," Thomas shouted. "This is my area. Come near me and you'll get hurt."