… and this little fan will miss it terribly. :(
NHL closed for business
By Mark Purdy, Mercury News
The absurdity was stamped and certified Wednesday. The NHL decided to commit suicide, either temporarily or permanently.
And as we all know, temporary suicide is a rare phenomenon.
Hockey’s owners and players will be lucky if their sport survives this lockout in any sort of shape to grow, or prosper, or even simply maintain the cult-like following it has today. The only thing we know for sure is, ice hockey at the highest professional level will be gone for a long, long while.
Until January, if you believe the optimists.
Until 2006, if you believe the pessimists.
If you pin me down, I’ll go with February 2005 as the over/under.
(more under extended entry)
My cold is going away, slowly. Still hating life at work. No fucking hockey. Yes, life is peachy!
Bitchlog stardate 09162004
But in a twisted way, I’m rooting for this work stoppage to last as long as possible. The lockout is going to be terrific. Not for the game itself. And not for the hard-core fans, although they will save some ticket money when games start being canceled.
No, this lockout will be terrific simply because it might teach all the large egos involved in these talks how small they are in the big picture.
Here’s the blunt truth: Outside of Canada, most sports fans will barely notice that hockey is gone until next spring, if there are no Stanley Cup playoffs. But you wouldn’t know that from the self-important posturing we witnessed Wednesday.
During a news conference to announce the lockout, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman sounded as if he were chewing on raw meat. He ripped into the players’ union for rejecting the salary cap sought by the owners.
“To use a hockey term, they’re instigating a fight,” Bettman said. “They think they can win this fight. . . . They’re wrong.”
A short while later at his own media session, NHLPA executive Bob Goodenow picked up the gauntlet, calling Bettman’s statements “disingenuous” and “ridiculous.”
Gentlemen, you don’t get it. Fans don’t care about this stuff. They don’t care who’s spinning lies and who isn’t. They just want to watch games, and if there are no hockey games, they will watch football and baseball and basketball. Game, set, change the channel.
By next week, Bettman and Goodenow will be tiresome old news. By November, they will be lucky if anyone in the media shows up to cover their negotiations, if there are any.
To the NHL owners, I would say this:
Study your history. Every work stoppage in every professional sport goes the same way. There is a huge pile of money in the middle of an arena, the product of fans and television and sponsors. The owners and players begin wrestling each other over that pile of money. This leads to either a strike or a lockout.
And when the thing is settled, the pile of money has grown smaller.
Why? Because the fans stay away, some of them forever. So do some of the sponsors. If a sport is fortunate, that pile of money might eventually become as big as it once was. That’s always a struggle, though.
As owners, then, you might want to reach out in the next week. You shouldn’t summarily dismiss some of the players’ proposals, which include a form of “luxury tax.” The plan is similar to the one baseball uses, where rich owners who go over a certain payroll ceiling have to begin subsidizing poorer clubs.
You might also want to bring the paying customers directly into the negotiating room. Wednesday, there was much talk by Bettman about using a salary cap to create an “equitable economic system” and “affordable tickets.” But there was no pledge to freeze or reduce the cost of seats for four years or longer.
Do that, and maybe the fans are on your side. Otherwise, they will see the lockout for exactly what it is: a chance for the owners to guarantee they will make a profit no matter how many bad decisions they make.
To the players, I say this:
Check out the jock culture of the 21st century. The most popular professional sports league in North America is the NFL. It pays exceedingly decent wages. It draws outstanding television ratings and sellout crowds. And because of that TV exposure, pro football players reap the bulk of America’s endorsement riches.
And the NFL has a salary cap.
The pro sports league that has experienced the most growth over the past 20 years is the NBA. The players’ average salary is superior to the average hockey salary.
And the NBA has a salary cap.
This inspires a question: Why is the NHLPA so completely convinced that a salary cap is an absolute and utter evil?
The solution is so clear, even a dimwit sports columnist can outline it. The two sides must agree on some sort of device that puts a ceiling on salaries.
The union will not want this “ceiling” to be called a salary cap. That’s fine. Don’t call it a salary cap. And the owners will not want this “ceiling” to be called a luxury tax. That’s fine, too. Don’t call it a luxury tax. Invent a new term. Call it a “Top Shelf.” Or seek out a corporate sponsor and call it a “Bud Light Screw Top.”
Pretty straightforward, don’t you think? And it sure beats suicide.