Thursday, November 04, 2004

NHL REPS MEET, FANS GETTING ANGRY

While the US election was going on the NHL player reps had a powwow with NHLPA boss Bob Goodenow, who gave the reps a rundown of where things stood and put to rest a lot of the talk about players accepting a salary cap and the like. Later he's going to meet with player agents to keep them in line, too.

Afterwards the meetings broke up with the union back on the same page and fully united, crushing the hopes of miserable fans who thought these guys were about to cave in to a salary cap.

Gary Bettman then made an announcement that the season was now in jeopardy and the league cancelled the All-Star Game in Atlanta, scheduled for early next year.

The fans are now freaking out. They are beginning to realize that hey, these hockey players aren't all that sentimental about the NHL or its fans. They're not playing in the NHL for the love of the game or any of that. People still think that these players would play NHL hockey just for the love of the game, that they're good Canadian boys. That's proving to be baloney. They love the game, all right, but not enough to stick around Canada. They are taking the money and hopping on the next flight out of North America via Lufthansa and Aeroflot.

More and more of these guys are going to Europe: now, Vincent Lecavalier and Brad Richards are apparently signing contracts to go play in Russia. You know, good for them that they love the game of hockey so much that they'd be willing to move halfway round the world to play it. They love the game of hockey, but they don't love the NHL right now and are telling these owners to go stick it in their faces. And frankly, I don't love the NHL either right now. I've always been more of a fan of the international game anyway- that's where the best hockey is being played.

But that's cold comfort for the fans who are now totally turned off by these players and ready to boycott the sport if the season wipes out. And they're also browned off with Gary Bettman, too. A lot of fans had this belief that this lockout would save the Canadian teams, kill off a few Sunbelt franchises that don't deserve hockey to begin with, help put NHL franchises in Winnipeg and Hamilton, solve all the sport's problems, and bring the Stanley Cup a step closer to a permanent return to Canadian soil.

Well, now they are hearing from Gary Bettman that the league wants to preserve all its franchises- every one of them, including all those anonymous teams in the Sunbelt. So fans are browned off because they now are beginning to realize this lockout is about saving the Nashville Predators and Phoenix Coyotes, and that the Stanley Cup will probably continue to dangle from trees in Florida. Edmonton and Calgary would probably survive regardless of whether there was a lockout or salary cap or not.

So reality is biting hard. And it sure looks as if Bettman and the gang are fighting to preserve the same crummy league with all its problems that we had before. That's why the fans are so upset. They are totally against the players, but they are slowly seeing that this lockout may not solve all of the league's problems and may threaten to create some new ones.

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