Every so often, a blind squirrel finds a nut. And there’s been no blinder squirrel than the NHL players’ union over the years. This is a side that got locked out for an entire season and still got a salary cap with no exceptions enforced on it. Eight years later it got locked out again and got an even worse salary cap enforced on it, still no exceptions. And the owners successfully got the players’ eyes off the prize by making players bitch about escrow in a system based on a formula that can’t really exist without escrow.
Oh, and they can’t agree to anything to keep their fellow players safer on the ice. All and all, it’s an unwieldy collection of morons, which probably isn’t all that surprising given how much of the membership stopped going to school in 7th grade.
And yet, they finally got one over on the owners. The next NHL season has had no official start date as the owners sought to claw back some of the things they agreed to back in the summer that saw the 2020 playoffs finished. The owners wanted more salary deferred for this upcoming season and a raise on the escrow caps in the following years because they don’t like the outlook of a season that will be played, at least partially, without fans in the stands.
For once, the players dug their heels in, tapped on the Memorandum of Understanding that the owners agreed to with one hand while doing the “the-finger-thing-means-the-taxes” with the other. Gary Bettman tried to go to the Rob Manfred playbook of painting the players as the bad guys, or trying to find euphemisms for what was a blatant money-grab, with the same success as Manfred, which is to say zilch.
Reportedly, the players said they’d agree to more deferments for a raising of the cap, which of course caused the owners to choke on their spritzers. And so the owners caved. They’ve moved past any financial consideration, and are now trying to figure out the logistics of a 56-game season starting on Jan. 13, which is no small hill to ascend.
It also lets you know just how much bullshit the owners’ demands are, because if it was so perilous to play this season, they wouldn’t have waved the white flag on this discussion. Whatever owners were talking a big game about not playing at all rather than going crowdless were either full of it or were talked out of their hardline stance. Kind of perfect that it’s the hockey owners that are the first group of owners in decades to lose a stare-down with a players union.
Anyway, in the words of Crash Bandicoot, “Less work, more hockey.”
The MLS playoffs might have crescendoed last night in Seattle. Minnesota FC tried to pull the same act that they did in Kansas City in the previous round: Defend their way through the match and catch the opponent on the counter, and don’t miss their chances. It worked for 75 minutes, as The Loons took a 2-0 lead.
And then they forgot how to defend a corner.
Seattle had been pretty predictable and tepid in attack until the introduction of Will Bruin: Crosses from deep, passes played sideways, everything in front of Minnesota’s defenders. But then after substitutions, Seattle started getting in better spots and making the Minnesota defense run toward its own goal. Bruin scored off a weird bounce to bring the Sounders within one, and then it was about Minnesota having their controllers turn off on corners in the dying throes. First they let Seattle’s Raul Ruidiaz loiter at the back post like it was Walden Pond.
Then Gustav Svensson in the second minute of injury time was escorted to the ball like he was going to meet the groom to be, and suddenly the Sounders had a 3-2 win and their fourth trip to the MLS Cup final in five years. The only shame was not having 45,000 Sounders fans turning into an indecipherable mass of energy somewhere around the decibel level of the Earth collapsing.
Seattle will head to Columbus on Saturday night for the final, and to cap off what has been a truly zany playoffs full of late and incredible goals, penalty shootouts, upsets, and logic being burned alive. The playoffs may make a mockery of the MLS regular season, but seeing as how this season was a mockery anyway, let’s just sink into the muck happily, rubbing it on our bare chests and cackling maniacally. There’s nothing to hold onto anyway.