And down goes another month.
In a move that makes Lindsay Lohan’s reasoning seems sound, the National Hockey League took out its shears and lopped off more game on Friday. This time, rather than the two week block that has been customary so far this lockout, they made it possible for hockey fans to clear their schedule for the entire month of November as it canceled all games for the month in one fell swoop. If you’re keeping count, that’s more than a quarter of the schedule that’s been swept way. That’s 326 games lost since October 11th.
That means if you’re one of the optimistic fans (of which I was one) who thought the season would commence on the Black Friday game on NBC between the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers, well, you’re wrong. And at this rate, it’s silly to expect any good news anytime soon as to when the season will begin, if it will at all. And what ESPN’s John Bucigross tweeted moments after word got out didn’t help the delicate psyche of your average NHL fan:
NHL sources tell me the NHL will cancel Winter Classic and All Star Game. Announcement presently scheduled for Monday.
Followed up by this clarifying tweet:
To be clear, I’ve now heard Monday, Tuesday and Thursday for Winter Classic/All Star Game cancelations. I should have said next week. My bad
And so within the span of a couple hours or so, fans had their hopes dampened then trod upon as we’re closer to the reality there may not be NHL hockey this season. If you had asked me last season if we’d be on the verge of having another season air mailed, I would have said you’re crazy. Due to the lack of negotiations over the summer, I thought we’d have a short work stoppage but things would get going in time to save all of the big events and the build up around them. Today, I can’t help but think we’re a collision course of season armageddon, once again.
At this point, I have no other choice but to think that. It’s October 27th and the two sides won’t even meet unless the conditions are perfect. Now, thanks to the league withdrawing their last proposal, there’s not even anything to work off, as a last result. We’re right back to where we were in 2004. Maybe at some point, both sides will stop trying to play the PR game with the fans, come to their senses, lock themselves in a conference room and not emerge until a system both sides can live with is agreed upon. But, right now, every side is more focused on ‘winning’ the negotiations than winning hockey games. The owners want to flex their muscle all the way to bank. I get that. People don’t become billionaires without having the same drive in the board room that athletes have in their chosen field. And the players don’t want to feel like Billy Bats told them to go home and get their shine box. I get that, too. But, irreparable harm is being done with each announcement of game cancellations. Fans who played a big part of the last season’s record revenues will start walking away, taking their disposable income with them. At some point, winning the negotiations has to be put aside in favor of saving the league’s reputation.
Also, how long do you think league sponsors are going to sit around and watch this nonsense. Paying a large amount of cash to have your name next to the Winter Classic or All-Star Game doesn’t mean a thing if the events aren’t played. Both of those events are invaluable to drawing essential corporate dollars to the league. At this point, even a local car dealership would consider investing in this league a waste of time and dollars.
Earlier today, Frank wrote about how much this lockout goes a long way in damaging the momentum the Florida Panthers have made in the past season in winning back old fans and drawing new ones and how damaging it is to other small market teams. At some point, the building resentment is going to affect all teams, save for the Canadian franchises. No matter how much you love something, you’re only going to let it hurt you for so long.
The best piece of advice I’ve ever received in the business world is never take a vacation longer than a week because too much time away might make them realize they can survive without you. In his day of internet and expanded cable packages where you can watch every hockey league in North America or NCAA. At this point, considering the persistent work stoppages, I don’t know if the NHL wants to see if their fan base can survive without them.
At least the league can’t cancel Thanksgiving. Or can it?
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