Tuesday, July 19, 2005
The NHL lockout and church discipline
Well folks, this post has been brewing for quite a while, waiting for the day when the NHL lockout ends. Forgive me if this is the longest post my blog has ever seen, but it seems like the NHL owners and players finally resolved the hockey lockout!! Hooray!! If all goes well and the agreement gets ratified, we could actually see a hockey season this fall. And with Sydney Crosby being touted as the best player to come along since Wayne Gretzky, we might even see the game of hockey recover fairly well from this dispute! Good times for us Canadians!! (My apologies to the Americans, Aussies, Brits, Scots and others who are reading this, it does have a point besides a rant about our beloved passtime :)
Throughout this whole "labour dispute" (even Wikipedia is getting in on the action) I couldn't help but draw the parallel between the hockey lockout and church discipline. What do I mean, you ask? Well stick around for a not-so-brief summary. For those who are not familiar with what went down in the NHL hockey lockout, here's a brief synopsis:
1. Summer 2004: After the end of the 2003-2004 season, the "collective bargaining agreement" (CBA) between the NHL (league/owners) and the NHL players association (ie: union) was set to expire on September 16th, before the next season.
2. Like any labour dispute, both sides mainly thought of their own interests and so no progress was made on a new deal over the summer of 2004
3. Sept 16,2004: When the CBA expired, the league "locked out" the players (as opposed to most disputes where the players/union "go on strike", basically in this case the management went on strike)
4. Feb 16,2005: Because of a lack of an agreement between the two sides, the entire 2004-2005 NHL hockey season was cancelled by the NHL league/owners. The first time this has happened in any major sport.
5. June 13, 2005: After an entire year of "negotiations", the NHL owners and players finally resolved the hockey lockout.
Now, it is easy to see how this "dispute" has effected the league, players and the game of hockey itself. The league, who initiated the lockout, racked up some serious losses:
1. CBC reported that: "the league lost out on $2 billion worth of revenue"
2. The fans themselves are quite upset and some may never watch hockey again.
3. The league lost it's network deal with ESPN! Ouch! 70 million
What am I getting at here? Well let me generalize a bit. First let's look at the big picture in the hockey dispute and then see if we can learn something about church discipline in the process.
All of the "losses" that the league suffered are simply "short-term" losses. They will get the fans back eventually, they will get the TV deals back. Sure it might take a while, but none of those "losses" are what I call "league threatening". Compare those short term losses, with the ongoing "long-term" losses that the league was facing before the lockout - namely deficits of between 100-200 million per year. The main issue then came down to players salaries being too high. I know I'm generalizing and there were other issues, but basically big name players were not willing to take pay-cuts so that the game of hockey could continue. I mean, as if going from 10 million per year to 8 million is really going to affect your lifestyle. In my humble opinion these big shots felt they were more important than the game. The long term situation for the league/owners was simply this: We cannot afford to keep paying these guys, so either they take a pay cut or else we're stopping the game.
Think of how the players must have felt (again I'm generalizing): The nerve! How could the league think that the game is not about us. Who do they think they are telling Jaromir Jagr, Mats Naslund or Brad Richards (had to throw him in their for all you Islanders) that they are not important. Doesn't the league realize that without us, the players, they don't have a game at all?
Maybe some would sympathize with their side, but when we look at the big picture, it's not about those players, as important as they may think they are, it's about the game of hockey. It's about hockey being around for generations. That type of arrogance from the players (spoken or otherwise) was exactly what the league was trying to combat. They sent a message loud and clear when they locked out the players. We don't need you. The game is more important than you. Get over yourselves and start thinking about the good of the sport, instead of your own ego and paycheck.
Pretty harsh, but pretty true.
While I was watching this all unfold over the past year, I couldn't help but draw the comparison to the local church, as far as discipline is concerned. I'm not sure about you, but I have been on the receiving end of church discipline. That's right folks, I was kicked out of "fellowship" for one summer. If you want the details you can email me, but basically the elders at my church put the best interest of the congregation above me and my little ego. And good for them. Looking back I'm glad they did it. Their church is still around, and so am I, and much more humble because of it.
Sadly, I had a discussion with a pastor recently who was unable to follow through on church discipline. A highly respected member of the congregation (chairman of the board) was cheating on his wife, and other members of the board knew about it. This had gone on for some time, but when our pastor friend confronted him, and the board, tragically, they buckled under pressure from the adulterer and did not kick him off the board, or out of the church. To make a long story short, there was no discipline, the church no longer exists and the pastor is going to employement training for the first time in his life.
So what am I saying? Well, I'm glad that the league locked out the players. I'm glad they put the interests of the game of hockey above certain big shots. If they hadn't, and kept on in the financial situation they were in, the NHL could very well have ended up like my friends church. Like I said I'm generalizing but like Alcoholics Anonymous says "principles before personalities". It doesn't matter that the league lost an entire season, what matters is that the game of hockey lives on.