I live in the UK. I have been to America and Canada numerous times in recent years spending an obscene and difficult to justify amount of my spare income; all visits inspired in part thanks to my love of one thing: hockey. We won’t discuss which countless bars the income was spent (yes, it wasn’t just spent on hockey tickets).
Here’s the thing. Hockey is different to sports in Europe. Yes we have hockey, and yes we have significant sports and sporting events but for me NHL hockey is different. The quality, the intensity, the long climb to the top only to fall one step from the summit only to get back up and do it all again. No league, no competition comes close to the NHL for the passion it can draw from its hardcore fans. No league frustrates you more and keeps you coming back. Ok, maybe if you’re a Jets fan you may disagree but I digress.
The moment the league and the players association (*gasp* in unison) decided to disregard its entire fan base – globally as well as domestically – it decided it wasn’t serious about growing its sport. I fight the corner of hockey to anyone that’s willing to listen where I live. I tell people that no sport is more exciting, no trophy is harder to win or more glorious when it’s raised and I plead with friends locally to be antisocial and stay up late and catch games in the hope they’ll catch the bug. Just like how I caught the bug when I first saw the Rangers’ Mark Messier steam-roll some hapless fool on Channel Four at some unacceptable hour when this then 13 year old should have been in bed anticipating the next day’s maths sermon…
Tell me this: why do the league and NHLPA wait a few short months, weeks even, before sitting down to discuss the new CBA? The fact it took so long to discuss the elephant in the room is itself an insult to the sport and everyone involved with and in love with it. Everyone knew the CBA was expiring a long time ago. This lockout was one thing and one thing only: completely avoidable.
We don’t have a similar make up to the vast majority of our sports in Europe. It’s a foreign concept; that of the lock-out, the need for a league and a union to come to terms on everything in order for league play to proceed. What isn’t a foreign concept here in Europe is compromise, discussion and finding a common solution.
The league – Bettman and all his handpicked henchman – and the players union – and their elected war mongers – all should have been able to see this huge regression coming. If none of them could recognise the need to keep the league’s train on the tracks of recent progression (AKA growth, revenue, income for all involved…) then none of the decision makers deserve to keep their jobs.
It’s a disgrace that egos can get in the way of millions of people’s passion, and millions’ of people’s livelihoods and stop the league from playing and from becoming successful domestically, relevant internationally. It’s disappointed me; it’s left me with a void and above all a bitter taste in my mouth. And I’m just one fan stuck in a hockey irrelevant corner of the world. I’m sure I’ll get back to rugby, or whatever other mundane, flawed sport I can find over here shown at a normal time of day. Thanks Gary, thanks union…. thanks a lot. You’ve managed to set the league back by a decade or so.
Rant over. “Oh look, there’s repeats of Jersey Shore on TV” (*throws up in mouth*)