Tuesday, October 12, 2004


Well tomorrow is the day that was supposed to be opening night of the NHL season. Instead, it's still baseball season as far as everyone is concerned. Tonight, the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox are into the first game of the AL Championship Series and I highly doubt that anyone in those cities cares about the Bruins, Rangers, Devils or Islanders. Game One has turned into one heck of a game. Mike Mussina had a perfect game going until the 7th and not only have the Red Sox broken it up, they've scored five runs and only trail 8-5 now. So are you asking me if I miss the NHL yet, well, you have my answer, and you have the answer from a lot of the sports fans of this country. But not for much longer.

Because this is the week where we officially start losing games and our Saturday nights in this country. This is the week when the fans finally feel it. Movie Night in Canada? Yecch! Well, maybe they'll be good movies. Maybe it won't be so bad after all.


The people really feeling it are all the sportscasters in this country. If you haven't noticed, about 90% of the sportscasters in Canada are big hockey nuts who are really knowledgable about the NHL but care not one bit about anything else. So as a result, sportscasters like Gord Stellick, Jim McKenny, Kathryn Humphreys, Norm Rumack, Pierre McGuire et. al. are really struggling to find something to say about all the other sports. Kathryn's sportscasts on Citytv have fallen to new lows: last week she reported on Tiger Woods' wedding, and this week she went to McDonald's to interview some champion monopoly player. No, I am not making this up! This is how bad it has gotten in Canada and how embarrassing the sportscasts have become at Citytv. Their whole sports department has been reduced to rubble by the lack of sports news.

Then you have the guys like Paul Romanuk, people who'd be better off covering football or basketball or something else. Instead he is stuck doing hockey shows in a season with no NHL hockey. I tuned into Live from Wayne Gretzky's last Friday and I am amazed Romanuk and crew were able to find any hockey to talk about since it's entirely an NHL show. Well, I have a suggestion for all these folks. Cover other sports. Go do the baseball and football highlights, cover the Raptors training camp, and once you run out of those stories go take your cameras to the OHL rinks and cover that, and cover the bleeping high school football games going on. But the problem is: these people can't get off the floor and DO that because they don't know how. See, this is what happens when the entire sports media establishment in a single country is geared to covering a single sport and a single league. At least when baseball went on strike in 1994 a lot of the American sportscasters were able to switch easily to football and basketball and they didn't miss a beat. Here, the entire sport media industry's been devastated.

Right now the one sportscaster in the country who is thriving during this lockout is Chuck Swirsky, the Voice of the Raptors, because he's literally the only sportscaster in town capable of talking about more than one sport. He's single-handedly saving the FAN 590. (Elliotte Friedman is also capable of talking about more than one sport but in an ill-fated career move he is stuck at the sinking ship Hockey Night in Canada. He is making guest appearances on the FAN, though.) There's also Tom and Jerry, and the football guys like Mark Lee and Chris Cuthbert. Isn't Scott Russell ever glad he left Hockey Night in Canada now to go do the amateur sports beat on CBC? If he stayed at HNIC he probably would've been laid off. (Hazel Mae, who has a clue about other sports, wisely left the country during the summer for Boston.)


I should talk about what the media is saying about when this NHL impasse will actually end, because the prognosis is not good. In fact, it's SCARY the scenarios these sportswriters are cooking up.

The latest conventional wisdom has these bums out the entire season, then Gary Bettman will try to bring in replacement players to the NHL next fall. They also think that Canada's loyal hockey fans will actually come back and pay $55 bucks a seat to see the National Hockey League when it finally returns from this nonsense. Just about all the sportscasters are convinced this doomsday scenario is actually going to happen- and then the fans will simply forgive and forget and come back!

Wow, what a debacle: we'd get a whole season cancelled with no Stanley Cup, and to top it all off we'd get replacement hockey too. Think about it for a moment and ask yourselves whether you, as a fan, would want to come back to a league that treated you in such spectacularly wretched fashion. This type of thing would be enough to make me switch to NASCAR permanently.

People actually think the Canadian teams will continue to sell out the buildings in Canada after such a debacle. I wouldn't. I'd be so mad at the sport that I'd be threatening to quit following hockey! I remember Bob Costas after they cancelled the 1994 World Series and he was so mad that he was even saying "I'm through with this sport!"... and he LOVES baseball! I don't understand these Canadians who declared they were through with baseball after what happened in 1994, yet they'd be willing to come back to hockey so quickly after they wipe out a season and bring in the replacements. There are even fans saying they won't miss all the American teams that will be going out of business, so long as all the hockey teams in Canada are saved by the lockout.

I'll tell you something, I remember the 1987 NFL player's strike with the replacement players, and that was really a sad display, even though it only lasted a few weeks. I don't care if the replacement players broke the union. It was still a debacle, and it will be a debacle if it happens again in the NHL, with the damage of a lost season already in the books. That's what's so scary- people think this is doable. But you can bet the American fans will be furious. They're the ones who'd be ready to say "I'm through with this sport!" and I wouldn't blame them one bit!

Like I said before, as bad as it is now, the worst is still yet to come in the NHL player's lockout. ENJOY THE HOCKEY SEASON, FELLOW CHUMPS.

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