I apologise in advance for the lack of any (attempted) witty or amusing comments. As you know, this is meant to be a fun, light-hearted website, but Gary Bettman and everyone involved in the lockout for some reason have managed to temporarily suck out all of my love and enthusiasm for sports. Please note that all views expressed here are purely those of myself as opposed to the Blue Toro staff as a whole, who, rather worryingly, seem to love hockey more than life itself.
I actually debated whether to even write about the end of the NHL lockout; a boycott if you will. However, at the end of the day we cover Toronto sports teams and whether I like it or not, people want to read about hockey, no matter what has happened. Translation: I may have been ‘persuaded’ that it was the right thing to do.
At the risk of sounding like a miserable sod, I’m not yet in a position to get excited about the prospect of seeing the Maple Leafs back on the ice. (Oh hold on, that’s normal for Leafs fans right?) I’m still pissed off with the way Bettman, the owners and to a lesser degree, the players, have treated the fans.
More than any of the other major sports in North America, the NHL is a gate-driven league, i.e. it depends on the fans. And yet, the league has shown their total disdain and lack of respect for those very same fans by having three lockouts since 1993*, leading to the loss of two partial seasons and one full campaign. That is disgusting.
* All of the lockouts have happened since Bettman took over as Commissioner. I’m not implying anything, just reporting the facts……..Oh, who am I kidding, we all know exactly what I’m implying. People can talk all they want about revenues rising from $400 million to $3.3 billion during Bettman’s reign. However, while the actual increase can be debated, this would have happened regardless of who was in charge.
Unlike the majority of you, I actually wanted the season to get cancelled*. It might have been the only way to make supporters wake up and realise how little the NHL actually gives a toss about them and in the event persuade fans to make some kind of stand next season, whatever that may be.
* As a guy not obsessed with hockey, i.e. not Canadian, I’ve been able to review the lockout more objectively. And yet, ironically, still get as annoyed.
Hockey fans remind me of my mate who continually stays in relationships way longer than he should, even though it’s obvious to everyone else it just isn’t working and she’s taking him for a ride. But no matter how much you advise him, how often he is neglected, how expensive the women are, how depressed he becomes, my mate still has to be left to get on with it until eventually working it out for himself.
It makes me laugh (sarcastically as opposed to joyfully) when the media says the NHL now has a lot of work to do in winning over their fans again. No they don’t! The fans that are hardcore, i.e. Rangers, Bruins, Blackhawks, Flyers, the whole of Canada, will come flocking back regardless (see last paragraph.) And for those people who are either fairweather fans or didn’t care anyway, again nothing has changed. If they didn’t give a damn about the NHL beforehand, how is any attempt to apologise after a lockout going to make things any difference?
It will be interesting to see if the NHL still has the gall to go ahead with the rumoured idea to increase the playoffs to 20 teams for this season, under the ruse of being a big thank you/apology to the fans. Everyone knows this is total bull. Really it’s just a way for the owners and players to rake in some of the money they have lost from this latest lockout.
(It’s basically on a par with the NHL attempting to say moving up from their original offer for the new CBA was a ‘shared sacrifice’. Not really the case when that original offer was so insulting/unrealistic and you know whatever agreement is eventually reached will result in your side making more money than the previous deal.)
I did hear suggestions of giving everyone free access to Centre Ice for this season, which would be a good move. In effect, at this point it can’t hurt the league to give fans half a season at no cost. And if it happens to peak the interest of people who don’t normally follow/care about hockey, then all the better. (Free stuff often has that effect on folks.)
Anyway, I’m going to stop talking about this now as despite being a so-called objective observer, I’m getting riled up again about this whole farce of a situation and resorting to swearing more than usual.
I promise to return to a lighter mood for my next article.
Photo credit: @JakeRoy30, JohnnyMateri & @USAmjs