Unbeknownst to most of the media, the NHL and the players' union held an unusual series of meetings in an attempt to end the lockout.
To cut through the bureaucracy, each side nominated one spokesman to appear before an arbitrator. The Star Tribune was able to obtain a tape of the proceedings from Mother Jones. Here is the transcript:
Arbitrator: Welcome, gentlemen. Let's get right to it. First, I'd like to hear from the owners' representative, a Mr. Craig Leipold, owner of the Minnesota Wild hockey franchise. Mr. Leipold?
Leipold: Thank you, sir. I'd just like to say that the players should be embarrassed. We pay them very well. Allow me to rephrase. I pay them very well. They should realize that we owners just can't keep giving out these ridiculous salaries. There has to be a limit to their contract demands, and the owners have to be able to run our franchises without the burden of these silly long-term deals. I mean, c'mon, they're just hockey players. It's not like they can hit a curveball.
Arbitrator: That's quite enough, Mr. Leipold. Now I'd like to hear from the person who best represents the players' perspective. Mr. Leipold?
Leipold: Yes, thank you, sir. Please don't listen to my opponent's nonsense. The man has no credibility. The same guy who's sitting on the owner's negotiating committee and arguing that the owners need a more favorable financial system just signed two hockey players not named Sidney Crosby to deals worth a combined 26 years and $196 million. And get this: He would have paid more, if one of those players, Zach Parise, hadn't insisted on the same terms for himself and Ryan Suter.
Think about that, sir: The only person who exercised any financial restraint during Mr. Leipold's negotiations with the players was one of the guys getting paid. Parise had to tell Leipold, "No, please, sir, you're trying to pay me too much. Take some money back.''
My opponent cut those deals, immediately boosted his ticket sales and franchise's popularity, then had the nerve to sit across from us in negotiating sessions, making the argument that owners need a better system to keep them from spending ridiculous amounts of money. I've seen the Wild play. My opponent should be spending $200 million every summer.
The guy pulls a DM, then wants to restrict spending?
Arbitrator: A DM?
Leipold: A Double-Mauer.
Arbitrator: Ah. Well, that was quite an impassioned statement, Mr. Leipold. I think it only fair that your opponent be given a chance to respond. Mr. Leipold?
Leipold: I operated within the rules. My team needed a boost. My franchise needed a boost. Heck, I needed a boost. These deals might save my life. That seatbelt that holds me down in my suite during games was getting frayed. If we keep losing, I'm going to wind up diving onto the ice, and if I'm not lucky enough to break my fall on Ryan Kesler's neck, I could die.
I didn't cheat. I did what was in the best interest of my team. Hey, I'm the good guy here. I'm not like those other owners. We're in a lockout and I'm not going to lay off our mascot until next Tuesday.
Listen, the players have to help me help myself. You know us owners. We can't control ourselves. We're like meth addicts. We wake up one morning with signed contracts scattered around us, reeking of Dom Perignon, wondering what happened. We go to meetings, give ourselves 12-step programs, drink a lot of coffee, vow to go straight ... then we get that craving again.
Admit it, you players are stuck with us. You can't fire us. You don't want to play anywhere else. And you should know that whatever system we insist on, we're still going to wind up spending money like Bryant McKinnie on South Beach.
Please, guys, help us help ourselves. We're the victims here. We can't stop spending, and we can't quit you.
Arbitrator: Your final rebuttal, Mr. Leipold.
Leipold: Nothing further, your honor. I couldn't have said it better myself.
Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500-AM. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • firstname.lastname@example.org