Most hockey fans believe that the NHL lockout has been a necessary epic struggle, not unlike the game itself and not dissimilar from the French historical novel by Victor Hugo, Les Misérables. Pitting mere mortal millionaire hockey players against the aristocratic billionaire owners should make for a blockbuster musical.
Les misérables can be translated from the French as “the miserable ones,” “the wretched,” “the poor ones” or “the victims.” At first glance, the players and owners do not seem to fit this description, so with your permission, I’ll cast us fans in that role. We are willing martyrs, ever optimistic and by today’s billionaires’ standards, an unremarkably quiet group. But wait, revolution is brewing.
In the opening scene, The Poor Ones, angry with Players and Owners about high-ticket prices, incomplete seasons and financial inequality, would sing I Dreamed a Dream. Later the hockey GMs harmonize Players for Sale or Rent as NHL Players Association boss Donald Fehr croons out a solo. Clad in Rod Stewart candy cane tights, hockey sock in place, Donald gazes longingly into Gary Bettman’s eyes, tears flowing like warm water from a Zamboni, and belts out the Donna Summer tune They Work Hard For the Money.
Act One draws to a close as The Victims find out that the annual salary for a Player is around $2.2 million. The Poor Ones understand this reeks of excess, but they are confused. They know there is enough money, but who is hoarding it? The average Wretched Fan has skated backwards for the past 30 years. He only makes $46,000 a year. I’d Love To Change The World fits nicely here.
In a brilliant rendition of Money for Nothing—Your Pucks for Free, Bill Daly and Gary Bettman yodel the many challenges poor Owners encounter every day in their harsh and bitter lives. Some of them now have less than a billion dollars to get by on. They whine out the ABBA tune Money, Money, Money.
In a decidedly weird twist, the second act opens with Owners constructing a barricade to lock Players and The Wretched out of the rinks. Owners sing We Are The Champions because—well, they believe they are! The Miserable Ones have a mid-ice crisis when they find out that the 30 NHL owners have a median net worth of $1.75 billion, with Jets owner and Canadian David Thomson topping the list at $22 billion.
Chirping Take the Money and Run, Mexican Carlos Slim sings the Owners to sleep. Slim is the #1 draft-pick among billionaires this year with a $75+ billion personal net worth.
We reach the climax when The Poor Ones finally grasp that it is the billionaires who are hoarding the world’s money supply—shattering economies and undermining democracy.
The Wretched also notice that the Owners impose salary caps on the Players and the rest of society, but have no salary caps themselves. The Wretched and The Players sing What Up With That. The Miserables form an idea-barricade. They boycott NHL rinks and limit their spending at the billionaires’ megamalls. The Victims rise up. The Miserables support the Miserables. Do you hear the people sing?
Na na… na na na na… hey hey hey… goodbye! ~John Paul Byrne