The last lockout ended up costing the entire season, and when it was ultimately settled, many held positive hope that the two sides would never behave so ridiculously and let it happen again. Yet here we are less than 10 years later facing the same potential “nightmare” once more. With the announcement this past Thursday that the entire month of games for November were going to be cancelled, many began to think that the balance of the season is in jeopardy as well. We’ll likely hear sometime this week that both the Winter Classic and the All-Star game won’t be played either. Two main events that besides the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which allow the NHL to showcase this great game.
When I look back at how I felt about the last lockout, I can honestly say that I was on the players side all the way. While I didn’t object to the imposed salary cap, which I still feel is needed, I felt that the players gave up more than they had bargained for not only in lost salary for the year, but in the roll back of salary as well. However it was for the better of the game, and appeared to be worth it at the time. The last lockout also saw many older players retire, or return as a mere shadow of themselves. Jeremy Roenick was just one of those players who was not quite the same upon his return, and admitted how much the time off hurt him, and other players like him. We face that same dilemma under the current stalemate with players like Ray Whitney, Daniel Alfredsson, Teemu Selanne, and even Martin Brodeur. The longer this goes, the greater the chance is that we may have seen the last of some of the NHL’s great players. Or even worse, a player will return only to suffer an injury which will be too much for him to recover from, and cause him to retire. Not the way that he’ll want to finish his career.
I can remember too at the time that all I wanted was a settlement. Figure out a way to get this done, and just do it. Many of us felt that way as the lack of progress during that time did nothing but frustrate us. When I saw the opportunity to buy the above pictured ribbon, I jumped on it. The idea created by a frustrated die-hard fan like many of us, came from Doug Sitler who felt the need to make a statement. I remember too that when it was finally announced that the season would be cancelled in full, I sent a note to the letter of the editor for the Hockey News which ended up being published.
This lockout is different, actually worse, and for a number of reasons. I don’t have a side since I blame both the players and the league for being in the situation they are in now. Which I think makes things worse, since you usually want to have someone to stand behind, or against. Each side is seemingly trying to win a public relations battle, and not doing a very good job at it. Public perception runs from referring to the players greedy children, to calling the owners a bunch of lying sacks of you know what. Let’s also not forget that commissioner Gary Bettman has been called a variety of names from shrewd to smarmy, and anything in between, most of which won’t be printed here. What also makes this one harder to stomach is social media and the access to information that we now have. As Jake Goldsbie points out in his article on Backhand Shelf, the internet as great as it is, keeps us informed with up to the minute news both shortly before, as well as after if happens.
Besides radio, TV, and the usual websites that you go to, there’s also FaceBoook and Twitter as two of the most popular places that we all now rush to check for opinion and analysis. While lately a lot of it is anger, or frustration, it’s created a culture out there that I sometimes wish didn’t exist. However we are trapped into finding out what’s going on immediately, knowing that you can be anywhere as long as you have a cell phone, you’ll never be at a loss for information. You can either get the most recent developments from anyone of the great guys from TSN, or read an outstanding article from Michael Grange at Sportsnet, or have your head spin with any of the various rants that player agent Allan Walsh is on. Alan’s messages usually come in bunches and seem to last for about an hour. One sided or not, he’s another source of information that we have access to that we didn’t have in the past.
What I’ve learned since the last lockout is that besides being smarter about how to view the negotiations this time around, it’s about both sides coming to an agreement that will make sense for the long term, and not a quick fix. Hard to do however when one side won’t talk, or when one side comes back with three proposals that are shot down within a matter of minutes. The lack of communication drives us all bonkers, and knowing that nothing is happening anytime soon, leaves no room for hope to save what’s left of a season.
I would bet a 24% of my income that a slew of teams aren’t in the position to handle a second lost season within this timespan. Imagine all the lost revenue for about six to seven teams who simply cannot afford it as they await a settlement. Think about all the advertisers that are pulling their deals, or the one’s who won’t be renewing next time around. What about the people who have lost their jobs, the local establishments whose traffic has come to a screeching halt, and all the fans who have their hard-earned money tied up in tickets that they cannot use. The beat reporters who are now either covering other sports, or not covering anything at all. It’s. Happening. Everywhere. Each one of us is a victim of this lockout in one way or another.
Without hockey many people are finding other ways to spend their free time. In some cities there’s the AHL, ECHL, OHL, college, and high school hockey. Maybe you’ve even caught a beer league game to get your fix. Alternatives are there, but depending on your level of stubborness, they may not even be a consideration. With baseball now over (I don’t think the Tigers even showed up) that’s off the table, but word on the street is the NBA season is starting soon, and I’m sure some will gravitate to watching 10 guys run around trying to jam a ball inside a metal rim, and shatter glass at the same time. The concern is that the casual fan has likely had enough of this especially if it’s their second go round of lockout nonsense.
Personally, I have tried very hard to follow some other form of hockey, but I am having a mental block with it. I am sure at some point should the NHL cancel its season, that I’ll come around and be more receptive to it. For now, I need to go through my own individual mourning. I’m sure I speak for many of you, and that the sooner this is fixed the better for everyone concerned. My emotions have ranged from disbelief to anger, outrage, and what could ultimately become apathy. Numbness if you will. Many people have reached a point where they just don’t care any more if this is ever settled as those fans are lost for good, or at least their passion has dissipated. I hope that I don’t ever reach that level.
Here’s a thought: Why is it when we are in a relationship with someone and they break our heart, we never want anything to do with that person again. Yet when it comes to a team, or sports, no many how many times our hearts are broken, or how many times we’ve been disappointed we continue to come back for more.
Finally I have one last question. Doug Sitler…..Where are you?!
Thanks for reading. We welcome your comments and opinions.
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