TORONTO (Canadian Press) _ As it begins its third work stoppage in 19 years, the National Hockey League announced Monday that it has engraved a post-lockout message to fans on the Stanley Cup.
The prepared statement, which was also posted on individual team websites on Sunday morning, will take the place of the championship-winning teams and players that customarily appear on the Cup's body.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who made the announcement from a bomb shelter deep below the Hockey Hall of Fame, said that while perhaps controversial, having the the memo engraved on hockey's ultimate prize demonstrates the team owners' sincere pledge for a more stable business model.
"As I've mentioned previously, I feel terrible about this situation," Bettman said. "But we want the fans to know we'll do everything we can to get the games back up and running as soon as is humanly possible.
"With our message now a permanent part of the Stanley Cup, any time anybody looks at the most recognizable trophy in sports, the first thing they'll think about is our owners and players hard at work at the negotiating table, restructuring how our ever-growing revenues are shared."
The league's Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NHL Players Association expired at midnight Sunday with the sides unable to come to an agreement over how to split the $3.3 billion in revenue the NHL now takes in annually. As of right now, the players are locked out of their teams. Some players have already made arrangements to play overseas, while others are waiting to see how long the work stoppage lasts. The NHL previously lost the entire 2004-05 season and the first half of the 1994-95 season to lockouts.
Bettman said the move to engrave the missive on the Cup was done to address the league's economic future and was not meant to downplay or diminish the history of hockey, the NHL or the Stanley Cup itself.
'Just Look it up on Wikipedia,' Bettman Says
"I mean, if you want to see who was on the '85 Oilers, just look it up on Wikipedia," the commissioner said. "That's what I do. Seeing their names etched on a piece of metal doesn't really change anything. They still won it."
Teams winning the Cup have been engraving their names on it since 1893. The Montreal Hockey Club, the first team to be awarded the trophy during the "Challenge Cup" era, was also the first to make their mark by adding a ring to the bottom of the original bowl and adding "Montreal AAA" and the year to the side. More names were engraved though the years, usually at the team's expense, on additional rings as well as on the upper bowl itself. The NHL took over awarding the Cup in 1926 and has been adding the names of the league champions to it ever since.
Bettman said that even though no games would be played, the NHL's quest for a more fair division of revenue is just as important as any team's quest for a championship.
"Half of the names on the Cup are misspelled anyway," Bettman said. "Having this message engraved on the Stanley Cup lets everybody know our true focus going forward - fiscal responsibility, sensible negotiations and a more sustainable business model for both players and owners. And then, if there's time, maybe some hockey."
Deputy commission Bill Daly said the existing engraved rings, featuring the names of Stanley Cup champions going back over 100 years, would eventually be removed from the Hall of Fame, melted down and molded into tie clasps and cuff-links to be given to team owners at Christmas.
This is a parody. I hope.