When the National Hockey League owners voted unanimously Thursday to lock out the players, it made two things crystal clear:
1. Unless there's a Hail Mary -- a last-second delivery of common sense to the NHLPA and, especially, the owners -- we are not going to see NHL hockey anytime soon.
2. Despite everything that's happened in the last few years, including winning a trophy (and a big one it was), Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs hasnt changed a single bit. By calling for that vote and committing to lock the players out, J.J. confirmed that he is still concerned with one thing and one thing only: Money.
If you lived through the Jacobs years, or grew up through them like I did, you know what people thought of the old Jeremy Jacobs. He was a penny-pinching miser who entrusted his spendthrift caporegime, Harry Sinden, to spend enough to keep the Bruins competitive (and to make heaps of money), but not enough to actually build a champion. This led to 20 straight playoff appearances with nothing to show for it except the ignominy of taking Ray Bourque, arguably the second-greatest defenseman in NHL history, to arbitration.
When the Bruins had a chance to draft a potential superstar like Brian Bellows, Harry picked the already gimpy, but more affordable, Gord Kluzak. And J.J. counted his money.
When a player neared a new contract, Harry dealt him for parts. And J.J. counted his money.
When the Bruins needed to add a player to put them over the top, Harry would trade some food stamps for Brent Ashton. And J.J. counted his money.
The one time Harry did use J.J.s check book, it went straight into Kevin Stevens' crack pipe. But the turnstiles still spun and J.J. happily counted his money.
Fast forward to the last lockout, with J.J. again at the forefront. He got his salary cap; the good times -- and more importantly, the profits -- were supposed to roll. Unfortunately for J.J., reality took a hot steaming dump all over his portfolio. The lockout was not only a monumental disaster for the league, but also for Sinden and his coupon-cutting errand boy, Mike OConnell. Their let the entire team walk post-lockout strategy blew up faster than Dustin Byfuglien at a Steak & Shake. Before the ink was dry on Alexi Zhamnovs write off, the Bruins were among the dregs of the league.
Thats when the fans decided, "Enough!" They revolted. No more sellouts. No more concession stands bursting with cash. The Bruins' on-ice product was terrible and the single most loyal fan base in this town wasnt going to shell out cash for it any more.
With his team hemorrhaging season-ticket holders and ad revenue, Jeremy Jacobs was forced into a corner. He had to spend money; it was the only way he could improve the Bruins on the ice and rehabilitate his public image to return the Bs to being the cash cow they once were. Peter Chiarelli was hired as the new GM, and he immediately signed Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard for amounts that would previously have given J.J. hot flashes. They spent to the cap, and little by little the fans came back.
They came back because the owner had changed his ways. He was spending. He was eating money. (Is Dave Lewis still on the payroll?) He was empowering people like Cam Neely to build a winner at all costs, and Bruins fans were rubbing their eyes. Could this be the same guy? Had Ebenezer Jacobs been visited by the ghosts of Bruins owners past? Yup, it was the very same guy.
And the fever dream continued, as the improbable 2010-11 season ended with a championship. A man who many thought had arms too short to reach his wallet was now hoisting the Stanley Cup. This was it. With a title in hand, Jeremy Jacobs had finally changed his penny-pinching ways for good.
But as this week's vote showed, deep down inside, J.J. is still the same shriveled money grubber who, in the name of a better deal, is more than willing to lead the NHL into another potentially devastating lockout. For the love of cash, hes fine with throwing away all the goodwill he created with his fan base, and all the progress and momentum the league has generated. He was never reformed, just disguised. And dont let the recent contract signings fool you. Hes letting Chiarelli lock up Marchand and Seguin so he can chop their pay at the bargaining table.
Nope, when it comes to the fans and the good of the game, a T-Rex has a better chance of reaching his pocket than Jacobs. If Thursdays labor meetings told us anything, its that Ebenezer Jacobs is back and ready to steal Tiny Tims cane and sell it for kindling.
Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.