Thursday, September 20, 2012

The NHL is Only Hurting Itself...and Us

I don't want to hear it.

"The current situation is no good for the players."  "No good for the owners."  Blah-de-freaking-blah.

Let me tell you something, Mr. Bettman (and listen up, Bud, David, and my buddy Emperor Roger):

The only people who make money during a lockout of strike in sports are you...the players...the owners...and the effing lawyers.  Oh, and course, Donald Fehr (guess he sort-of counts as a lawyer, no?).

The front office people are already taking a paycut.  The concessionaires get nothing.  The broadcasters are out of work.  The parking people.  The day-to-day operations.  All get screwed.

But who hurts the most?  Of course it's the FANS.

We don't care who is right.  We don't.  All we want is our team; our game.  Right now, Islanders fans are sitting in the same boat with Devils fans, who are hanging with Rangers fans (and there's no mutiny).  And Bruins fans and Canadiens fans and Maple Leafs fans are all on the same team (scary, right?).

As we come off a year in which the Rangers nearly returned to the Finals, in which Los Angeles not only made the finals as an eight seed but WON THE STANLEY CUP, thus giving LA a few minutes to care about the sport, we find ourselves in a lockout.  Preseason games in September have already been canceled, and the season is in jeopardy.

I know, I know.  The sport will survive because the die-hard fans will, foolishly, return (present company likely included).  You can tell me about the number of fans baseball lost in 1994.  That's fair, but many came back, and attendance numbers are just fine and dandy.  Hockey also returned after their apocalypse.

Point is, we're just as guilty.  Yet with the stoppage, any building of a deeper fan base gets hurt.  The casual fan, galvanized by the run of the Rangers last year (or the Kings) will be turned off.  They might get turned back on next spring, assuming the Rangers have the type of season that many think they will.  But who is to say?  It does take time for fans to return.  It's fair to say that we get just a touch angry.

The other annoyance is that hockey critics can further rip the game with a "who cares?" attitude.  I've seen it, and heard it.  It gives people like Mike Francesa more reasons to ignore the sport.

It also gets easy to not miss it.  I didn't totally miss the NBA during its work stoppage last year.  You learn to find other ways to occupy the mind.

Yes.  It's business.  Definitely.  Since the first work stoppage (by the NFL in 1968), I think that has been totally understood.  What gets further understood - each time - is that the various leagues do not care about their fan base, but will act like they do when everybody returns.  Hey!  We need you now!

And so it is that we - the public - should go support the lower leagues if we love our sports enough.  Now, I'm not telling you how to spend your dollars, but it seems to me that a great way to spend an evening of afternoon, would be to go to a place like Bridgeport, where the Sound Tigers would be more than happy to entertain you.  Make sure to yell a "HELLO!" up to their "voice", Phil Giubileo.  They'll treat you right there.

There's a great innocence in the minors.  At the high schools.  Heck, even at times at colleges.

Still, when all is said and done, it is beyond annoying.  We want to see greatness.  We want to see the pros.

They should iron out their differences and play the games.

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