I write this column not as an expert on the business side of the NHL or as a writer with credentials, but rather as a life-long fan of hockey’s top league.
On Sept. 15, almost eight years to the day of the league’s last demise, all 29 of the league’s team-based ownership groups requested Commissioner Gary Bettman lockout the players for the upcoming season. I would like to go on the record in stating that these greedy owners must swallow their pride and cut the National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA) some slack, in order to avoid disaster
The league worked much too hard to restore its image to have another stoppage shatter it once more. I’m sure I speak for hockey fans everywhere in saying I will lose a huge part of my life and a lot of respect for the league should the lockout last.
Biased or not, I believe the NHL is the greatest of the major-sports leagues in North America, and to see a fourth lockout in 20 years truly breaks my heart.
When the owners elected to lock the players out before the 2004-05 season due to Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) complications, I never envisioned the entire season would be lost. I have faced the music this time around, and know that should a deal is not worked out as soon as possible, another season — one that was building up to be exceptional — will be lost.
Just last season, the league saw one of the most exciting playoffs in the sport’s history unfold, with the Western Conference’s eigth-seeded Los Angeles Kings coming away with the Stanley Cup. So what exactly does the league have to lose this time around? Well for one, many fans that came back once the last lockout ended may not be so loyal whenever the league does recommence.
Following the last work stoppage, “Thank You Fans” was painted on the ice just inside both blue lines in all NHL rinks as a tribute to the fans. I wonder what they can possibly write this time to make up for this atrocious act?
When the league returned to action for the 2005-06 season, no hockey was seen on ESPN or ABC as it had been prior to the lockout. When play did resume, the televised games were banished to OLN… that’s the Outdoor Life Network for those scratching their heads.
Well OLN became Versus which, truthfully, was a bit more appealing in name. Now known as NBC Sports Network, NBC and its affiliates have been the only stations that stayed true to the NHL, but I wonder how Lockout 2.0 will make them view their loyalties.
Hey, maybe when play starts again, games will be shown on MTV where all this drama can rival even that of Jersey Shore.
Should both sides stay stubborn, the NHL is going to experience some rough, rough times as far as income revenue and television ratings. But above and beyond all, the league will lose the respect of many who forgave it for their last debacle.
I will be there when the NHL does return, but I don’t expect to have much company in welcoming back the league with open arms.