I realize this is a technology blog, but I pay the bills around here and penning the odd off-topic article is my prerogative. Hell, there’s even an entire section on this site dedicated to “off topic” posts for the moments (surprisingly rare as of late) where I feel like talking about something a little different.
So the NHL is back, a fact that was glaringly obvious when I woke up last Saturday morning. Prior to last Saturday, my morning routine involved brewing a cup of coffee and turning on the TV, only to chuckle at the Canadian sports channels. What did I find so funny? Well, it was amusing, almost sad to see how completely and totally lost they were without NHL highlights, gossip, and news. Instead of bringing us extended highlights from the other major sports leagues, they chose to wafle in Top 10 lists from days gone by and endless coverage involving a handful of their hockey “analysts” standing outside a building in New York, forecasting what may or may not happen should a deal be set in place.
It was irritating for the first few weeks, but after a month I lost interest. The talking-heads reported nothing new, and the endless shots of NHL executives riding escalators became a bit of a bore to say the least. It was at this point I started thinking, why does anyone care about this anymore? I love hockey as much as the next person, but before too long I reached an undeniable conclusion. Why on earth should I care about any of this when it is abundantly clear neither side in this debate gives a damn about their fans? If they did, they would have solved this mess six months prior and it never would have reached such an embarrassing pinnacle.
From the beginning it was apparent Donald Fehr wasn’t going to settle on anything easily, and the owners were dead set on getting their 50/50 split of hockey related revenue (HRR). To those points I would counter with two things:
- To the owners: During the last lockout you said you needed “cost certainty” (in other words a salary cap) in order to “fix” the game. After all was said and done you got exactly what you asked for, but here we are a few years later and you’re at it again. Now you’re saying the game is broken, and you have to get your 50/50 split of HHR. What’s different this time? I suspect in a year’s time you’ll be griping about the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA), citing problems with how contracts are laid out, or how the players have found countless ways to bleed you dry. Some of that may be true, but I also suspect part of the problem is you’re fiscally irresponsible. The moment a star player becomes available your General Manager and the player’s agent dig into the CBA trying to find any loophole they can. Just look at some of the current contracts in the league – yes, I’m looking at you Garth Snow.
- To the players: Before heading into the lockout, your share of HRR was 57%. With that in mind, I’d ask you to share with me the name of one other company that gives more of it’s profits to employees than it keeps for itself. Do Tim Horton’s employees make 50% of anything? I don’t think so. I realize this is a complicated topic and it’s not that cut and dry, but again – how is a 50/50 share of ANYTHING in a business that employs you not fair?
But all of that isn’t what makes me want to walk away from this game – at least for the foreseeable future. It’s the fact that both sides completely neglected the fans throughout the entire process, as if to assume we’re all so desperate for hockey we’ll return to the rinks no matter what the cost. Sadly, it seems as though that is exactly true, here in Canada anyway.
During the dark days of the lockout fans were angry. Social media was abuzz with groups and protests by fans outraged that the “talks” had gone on so long. Through it all, neither side could muster up the energy to apologize to their fans or ask them to be patient. Players took to Twitter calling their employers all kinds of nasty things, while the owners seemed to lock themselves in a bunker, hiding behind all 4′ 5″ of Gary Bettman. It looked for a while as though the fans had finally had enough.
The lockout ended and with it, the angry fans seemed to disappear. Twitter started trending with topics celebrating the return of hockey, and all those fans who were so angry with the league for turning their backs on them turned into the abused wife who promised their husband “wouldn’t do it again – he’s better now”.
Tweets from people threatening to boycott the game suddenly turned into Tweets about boycotting opening night, or not watching opening night. I even heard from a few people who said they “loved the game”, and that they just wanted to “celebrate the return of hockey”. Umm…did I miss something? Hockey never went anywhere, this is Canada – it’s all a-freaking-round us all winter long? Admit it, you’re not celebrating the return of hockey, you’re celebrating the return of the NHL. I have no issue with those of you who are excited to see the return of hockey - I’m glad you’re glad. Personally though, I’m not ready to forgive these guys yet. They ignored their fans for the past few months while fighting with one another like a couple of children and the delay of this season is the result of their intense stubbornness - nothing more.
I guess the bottom line is, I’m floored by the amount of people who have turned so quickly in all of this. After several work stoppages and countless arguments (none of which seem to solve anything anyway), it appeared as though the fans were getting ready to FINALLY send a message. From what I can tell though, most of the angry fans have resorted to justifying the fact their completely and totally addicted to NHL hockey. “I’m just happy to see hockey back” and “I’ll boycott opening night” are just the kinds of reactions the NHL counted on. And let’s not forget the TV coverage. In the blink of an eye the Canadian sports channels went from being completely lost to covering hockey 85% of the time. I’m trying desperately to avoid all of this and even then I can’t seem to escape the endless predictions of when the season will start or who’s getting traded where.
…and the TOP 10 lists of best goals between lockouts…are you kidding me?
Unfortunately, I know where all of this enthusiasm is headed. In eight year’s we’ll be right back to uninformed player Tweets and a league that is “broken”, because the NHL owners weren’t able to put enough rules in place to protect them from themselves.
A bit of a joke really.