Friday, August 31, 2012
Eight years later, well the math is pretty simple, I'll let you do that. As for the rest I've three kids now, the youngest is starting school in six days. Even with my very infrequent posting this will be my 924th post on this website. And poor old Ben has been gone over two years now.
When the first lockout happened we had been waiting for it for years. 'Armageddon' it was called long before it came and while a true reckoning would have resulted in a half dozen franchises down the tubes along with the jobs that came with them there was still a lost season, the Stanley Cup uncontested, millions and millions of dollars lost by owners and players.
I believed at the time that it was the right thing to do, that some sort of cost certainty had to come into the game and I still believe this to be true. While the English Premier League may be wonderful entertainment (and I believe it is) the truth is that we already know the top four at year's end, give or take one and the one that misses out will probably be fifth. Smaller clubs may have a year of brilliance but invariably they are squashed by the economics of the game and so it was that even when fans pointed to Tampa/Calgary as an example of how poorer clubs/clubs on a budget could succeed, the reality is that in the nine years previous four teams had won the Cup and, even more telling, the list of teams that were truly competing for the Cup were, well, those four and a couple of others.
That was what the league had become.
Now here we are years later and suddenly we are staring into the abyss again. Why? Revenues have grown like wildfire but the problem is that there are about a dozen teams carrying the water, if that, so as the cap has gone up, so has the floor. The owners' grand southern experiment, an expansion fee cash grab and reach for the Holy Grail of US TV dough, going on since 1967, has been a massive failure and you could probably fold a half dozen franchises with very little fanfare other than the protests of their core fans.
You could cut the cap in half and there would still be teams losing money. Think about that. So while Bettman may talk about financial viability for the weak sisters being a cause here (and I don't think he really has honestly) these teams would only be saved by a return to the indentured servitude of the post World War II era when players, most of whom grew up in the Depression and the butchery of a global conflict, were literally happy to have jobs. Pretty hard to complain about your lot when you grew up with nothing and a half dozen older boys on your street never came back from Europe.
So its about the owners getting more money, nothing more, and while you still have a handful of the 'I would play for free' gang grumbling (sure you would dummies), it appears that the majority of fans and media, except for the most ardent spear carriers for the owners or those who really love the whip of authority on their asses, can see what's going on here. The players make a ton of money, sure. My wife works with kids with cancer for crying out loud, I can see that the whole thing is crazy, but hockey is a billion dollar business and the guys who play the game are the guys who generate that revenue. There are 690 of them who have jobs and probably two thirds of those, if that, have jobs that are relatively secure. So yeah, they deserve to get paid a lot.
The owners should expect to make a profit too, at least the ones where people actually come out to watch hockey and pay for it, don't get me wrong. No way the players should take home the whole pie. But this, folks, is a cash grab plain and simple.
What can be done? Well I was kicking around ideas on a patio last Friday. If you could get the politicians to say that with no agreement the writeoff loopholes would get closed off I think you might get some owners' attention. Or if the players could come together and create a challenge tourney for the Cup, Canada wide, similar to the FA Cup so you would have teams at all levels of the game playing off, well that would be something. Problem is if there was a settlement they'd have to carry it through right to the bitter end. Wouldn't happen, same as the politicians. Fantasy.
The only possibility is that this time when its all over the fans don't go back so that six or seven years down the road this doesn't happen again, so that Bettman sees that 'the greatest fans in the world' won't stand for his contempt anymore.
But do you think that will happen?
Here's the thing though. I don't care. Maybe its the fact that the Oilers have been so awful for so long. Maybe its because Bettman is such a dick. Maybe its because there are too many teams and the hockey is watered down and the league is bush, always has been.
Or maybe its because the reality is that its a game. Its entertainment. A hobby. A way to waste time. And the reality is its not that big a deal if they don't play this year.
My son is almost seven and in a few weeks he will start hockey for the first time. We got him his gear last weekend and came home and he tried it on and he was so proud and so excited and he is going to hopefully love the game like I do. The real game. Not the NHL game.
This week I got on the ice myself three times. Playoff game on Monday (we got killed) and then shinny at the 'new' Maple Leaf Gardens Tuesday and Thursday. Hockey with old friends and new. A lot of laughs and some good healthy competition and I scored one on a tap in from inches out and scored another on a clean cut breakaway, high over his glove (I never score that way) and while last night my hip hurt (occasionally does) and my knees hurt (quite often they do) and my ANKLES AND FEET HURT (what the fuck is happening to me!!??) it was all worth it. Winter hockey starts in a few weeks for us and I will play shinny every Wednesday like I did last winter and hopefully the boy and I will go for a spin now and then as well. Hockey. Love it.
What else? Well the boy and I are going to help my old man close our camp down again this fall. We have a wedding in September and Jenn's birthday is coming up so we'll go for dinner and maybe overnight for that. We have friends and family coming to visit in the fall and we have our own busy lives to live, good food and drink and the sex as well. Books to read. Music. You know, living.
So I'm thinking that yeah I'll be ok. And whenever the players end up caving in this time then yeah I'll turn the TV back on and catch the games when they start again.
But I won't miss them when they're gone. And neither should you.
Posted by Black Dog at 8:26 PM