Thursday, December 20, 2012

NHL & NHLPA: What the Puck?!

As you may have guessed, this picture to the left is the face of the NHL's fearless leader, Gary Bettman, superimposed on the body of the Grinch since myself and fellow hockey fans view him as the NHL's Grinch.  I would go as far as to call him hockey's Grim Reaper but whatever.  You get the point. 

My opinion has not wavered in that he is the biggest reason for this lockout mess.  Three lockouts in 18 years (two in eight years) and the possibility of canceling yet another entire season tells me that he is more than the owner's errand boy.  But he and Bill Daly (his version of the Simpsons Smithers, Mr. Burns' lemming) are not completely to blame.  No sir.  Don Fehr and the NHLPA are just as stubborn, greedy, and disconnected from what is really important...the fans.  I'm not going to get into all the dollars and cents, big issues, how far apart they are, and certainly I am not going to touch the latest legal proceedings from each side or the "disinterest" fiasco.  Why?  Because it's all rhetoric and nonsense.  A urination contest if you will.  All at the expense of the fans.

For a league that was so "savvy" to walk away from ESPN to be on the Home Shopping Network, they sure don't have the ability to look beyond their pointless labor war to see the erosion of the level of give-a-crapness the league is suffering in the eyes of the media, the fans, or their sponsors.  Or, they simply don't care.  Either way, for a league struggling for recognition and growth of any significance in the U.S. markets, they sure are going about it in a rather unorthodox way.  Dare I say in a stupid way?  I'm sure cities like Raleigh, Columbus, Nashville, and Miami really miss their hockey right about now (insert fart noise).

I have always been one to defend the NHL to those who bash it.  Heck, my father is the man who introduced me to the sport and made me the fan I am today and even he has lost interest in recent years.  Now, he could care less.  This is the same man that would allow me to stay up late with him to watch the late West Coast Red Wings playoff games and endure OT thrillers into the wee hours of the morning.  I used to give him reasons to care and try to convince him why he should remain a fan.  I no longer will do such a thing nor will I defend this Mickey Mouse league to anyone who either is no longer a fan or never was.  What has transpired in the last 20 years, and more so in the last decade, is indefensible.  Will I stay a fan?  Yep.  That's just the way I am wired.  Will I question anyone who bags on the NHL or no longer supports it?  Can't do it.  They have every reason to spend their free time and especially their entertainment dollars elsewhere.

I read an alarming stat the other day.  In a poll taken in Canada, 58% of the fans don't even care if the lockout is settled.  Apathy and disgust has now found its way to the country that claims hockey as their game.  It's one thing to see that in the U.S. but CANADA?  Wow.  That's the equivalent of the majority of sports fans in America losing interest in the NFL.  Nice job fellas.  Nice job indeed. 

Maybe Mike Babcock was spot on when he said the NHL and hockey is in danger of becoming as popular as pro bowling.  Some would argue it's already there.  If growth is what you seek, Mr. Bettman, you're going in the wrong direction. 

ESPN, which is the largest sports network in the universe, doesn't even give more than a line on the bottom ticker towards covering this childish lockout.  Bettman's lovechild, NBC Sports Network, is showing MAC college basketball and rodeos in the time slots that were supposed to be hockey.  I'm sure they're real thrilled.  Unfortunately, they may be the only people that actually care.

So, NHL and NHLPA, when you have the Canadian Prime Minister and the President of the United States of America publicly calling you out for this meaningless cat fight and telling you to do the right thing for the fans (remember us?) while you continue to do nothing but spew rhetoric and show no urgency to return to the bargaining table, I have to ask you a simple question:  What the PUCK are you thinking?!  If the growth of the league, fan support, media coverage, sponsorships, and MONEY (something that may actually make sense to you) are what matters to you then I would ask you to make your case that you are thinking rationally at all.  I'm waiting...

Personally, I get the suspicion that it is no longer about any of those things mentioned.  Not even money.  It's simply about who "wins."  Who can stick their chest out when this is all over.  If that is the case then shame on you.  If that is the case, I do hope that if and when you return, half-empty arenas are the norm, sponsors pull out, and fans do to you what you have done to us.  Give you the ever-famous one-fingered salute.  I ain't talking about the pinkie.

Yes, myself and a majority of the die-hard fans will return.  But, I will be very surprised if any of the new casual fans that were gained since the last lockout do the same.  I think it will be very eye-opening.  If this is indeed the case, Mr. Bettman and Mr. Fehr, you have nobody to blame but yourselves and your petty egos.  I hope this is all worth it.


  1. Amen to that. Bettman et all will still get their salaries. Players will still get the paychecks they paid into their safety funds (although they don't really need them) but kids and families will be robbed of sharing common experiences from their childhoods. I'm going bowling.

    1. Word. Don't forget the vendors at the stadiums and the bars and restaurants who depend on hockey for their income.

  2. Bettman's legacy should be artistically defined as the NHL logo with a chain and a lock around it.
    When anyone is able to lock out and in effect turn off over half of Canadian hockey fans he deserves to be entered into the NHL Hall of Shame.