The madness of the National Hockey League lockout, now in its third month, has gone on long enough. It's time to play hockey. And, by the way, to rescue the struggling restaurants and other businesses in downtown San Jose that rely on Sharks traffic to prosper.
Federal mediators are back, but that doesn't mean much. They have a spotty record at best working with professional sports leagues. And fans are sick of watching millionaire athletes argue with billionaire owners over money at the expense of the people who help make them rich.
It's all looking like a bad rerun. Legitimate disagreement over contract terms and division of revenue has turned into a battle of egos between NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL players representative Donald Fehr. The search for a legitimate bargain has become a win-at-all-costs blood sport.
Last week, Fehr called a news conference to announce that a deal was "in sight." Insiders say the statements caused Bettman to throw a tantrum. Fehr had to hurriedly call a second news conference to back away from the first one. It's a mess.
The NHL has canceled games through the end of December, but there is thought that an agreement in the next few days could salvage a 48-game season -- roughly 59 percent of a normal one -- and all of the playoffs. That is the best scenario hockey fans and local economies like San Jose's can expect. But cancellation of the entire season is a real threat. The NHL, with Bettman at the helm, did just that in 2005, and there's better than a 50-50 chance it will happen again. It's doubtful that the NHL would try to play a season starting any later than January. It's now or never.
This lockout hurts many more people than just the players, the owners or even the fans. People who make part of their living because of the NHL do not have strike funds or mounds of cash on which to rely. And it's not just restaurants, sports bars and other peripheral businesses whose employees suffer. It's hockey and arena employees, security and sales people, ushers -- most of them people making modest incomes in the best of times. They are at the mercy of the rich folks at the top of the sports employment pyramid.
The only encouraging aspect of the current negotiation is that it's taking place at an "undisclosed location" away from the media glare. Sometimes, to be productive, negotiators have to take a timeout from public pontificating. Whatever it takes to bring sanity back to the table, we're for it.