Market Power

Musings by an academic economist on the power of markets and the power over markets.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Fini! Fertig! Finished!

Hockey fans, looks like you'll be unable to watch any NHL games this year. If you are a hockey fan and "lucky" enough to live somewhere up in the nort' lands (where we are currently in a blizzard that has, for some reason, knocked out my furnace!), then you can watch some college hockey (like the WCHA) to get your fix. I know - that's like a beer snob settling for some Stag Beer, but sometime we gotta do what we gotta do, eh?

Here's an article from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune describing the current situation and here are two pertinent quotes:

On the players' side:

Nine hours of talks over two days -- first in Chicago, then in Toronto -- failed to make any progress. In a message delivered Friday, players are being told to plan for no season at all.

And so, several time zones away in Finland, Wild player rep Dwayne Roloson started making phone calls.

"We've been told that, for all intents and purposes, the season is going to be lost," said Roloson, one of seven Wild players playing in Europe during the NHL lockout, which reached 128 days Friday. "We've been told to prepare the guys that the season is going to be cancelled. Try to get over to Europe, play a little this year. Might as well get some games in when you can."

On the owners' side:

"The season's done," Detroit Red Wings senior vice president Jimmy Devellano told the Detroit Free Press. "There's no chance that the right deal can remotely be done in the next little while. There's too many I's to dot and T's to cross. You are not going to get this collective bargaining agreement done in two days, three days, one week or two weeks. It's over."

There was similar rhetoric after talks in December failed to make progress. But none of it sounded as dire as that going around Friday.

Who will blink first? The players have outside opportunities which improve their bargaining position. But the outside opportunities are imperfect substitutes in terms of money and non-pecuniary benefits (according to a guest on the Tony Kornheiser Show recently, if you play hockey in some towns in Siberia, you get to stay on your game, but you have to deal with the curfews). But the productive playing-life of a player is short, and having the prospect of cancelling two seasons staring them in the face may be a bit more than they are willing to swallow.

The team owners seem united, but they don't seem to have alternative opportunities to use their hockey-related resources (that raises another question - what sorts of resources possessed by team owners are "hockey-only" resources? If the team plays in a publicly-owned stadium, does that increase the owners' resolve?).