Thursday, February 17, 2005

NHL stream of consciousness: The Blame Game

The high school hockey playoffs have started. Since Gary Bettman and Bob Goodenow were unable to figure out the importance of a settlement and the need to save the season, get out and support the local high schools. Fill the rinks and enjoy the games. Don't let the NHL's stupidity keep you away from the game.

Speaking of Bettman and Goodenow, are there two more arrogant people on the planet? Based on the lines of BS they were both trying to feed the world on Wednesday, they think we're all stupid. It's like watching two heels feud in pro wrestling. Fans don't know who to cheer for, so they usually just sit on their hands and wait for the next match.

The finger-pointing needs to stop. A lot of it draws back to the two arrogant leaders involved (Bettman/Goodenow), but the rest of the parties are not innocent. Flames part-owner Harley Hotchkiss had the audacity yesterday to release a statement saying the "Union left us no choice" but to cancel the season. you think the world is that stupid? Most people who care enough to follow this story know that the players are just as much at fault as the owners. Both sides have made grave mistakes in this process, and both deserve much criticism and blame for what went down.

It'll be September before we hear from the NHL again. I feel badly for kids who were to be draft-eligible this June. There will almost certainly not be a draft now, meaning they have to wait another year before they can begin their pro career. The Sidney Crosby Watch will run for one more QMJHL season, I guess.

Baseball could afford to do this. The NFL could afford to do this. Both have huge and diverse fanbases to draw from, and while they would face serious public outcry over the cancellation of an entire season (look what happened to baseball in 1995), neither would be arrogant enough to think that their diehard fans would automatically come back, and neither would lose enough fans to lose any sense of relevance on the American sports scene.

All you have to do to understand what lies ahead for the NHL is look at what happened to Major League Baseball when they cancelled the 1994 World Series because of a player strike. Player-fan relations are only now getting back to near pre-1994 levels, and the game has only recently surged in popularity after years of bad TV ratings and average-at-best attendance. If the NHL thinks that a league containing 30 teams that were barely viable before a season-cancelling lockout is going to return with 30 viable teams, they're sadly mistaken.

Unfortunately, Bettman has probably fooled himself and his minions to think that this will actually happen. The combined arrogance and ignorance of this man is stunning.

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