Friday, January 21, 2005

NHL IS HURLING ITSELF OVER A CLIFF

NHL

(UPDATE: Trevor Linden has a press conference scheduled for within the hour to tell the media what happened with these lousy hockey talks and what a debacle it all was, and he's going to tell the players to pack their bags for Europe and be prepared to stay there for a long time--- take up permanent residence, perhaps. TSN is reporting on the total mess that is transpiring right now in the NHL and let me tell you, it is not pretty. Suffice it to say that crunch time is here and it's the NHL that is getting crunched, or is crunching itself. Not to mention its fans.)

Well, after a day for all the hockey pundits and the sports media establishment in Canada to stew and digest what went down in those two airports in Chicago and Toronto the last two days, it's looking more and more like this season is dead and buried under a pile of snow.

That's the impression I got listening to Glenn Healey on the FAN today. He says that on Thursday the NHL representatives came back to the players and told them they wanted a hard cap. Period. Apparently the number floated around was 38 million ( a figure that would decimate teams such as the Toronto Maple Leafs ), and that there wouldn't even be a transition period: the hard cap would come in right away and these big teams would have to take themselves apart. What would happen to players who would have be cut under this scenario? Dispersal draft, according to Healey and the information he got.

Wow, if that's really what the owners are looking to do this league is in a sorrier state of affairs than I thought. A proposal like that would just wreak havoc on the large market teams and sever long-standing relationships with the fans. You just can't do something like that to the fans. Fans don't like it when they have to buy programs to try and figure out who's playing on their teams. That's something that these NHL people have never learned: the fans are sick of all these players moving around all the time. The NHL is the worst league in the world for trades, worse than even major league baseball, and far worse than either the NBA or NFL, where the players still stand a hope of playing their entire careers in one city. Fans are sick of all the player movements and while Canadian fans are used to it, that's still something that has been a big problem for the game south of the border. So some FIX this "solution" will be if it comes in. Thanks a lot, NHL.

And now reality is starting to sink in for everyone. These two sides are so far apart on the salary cap there's no point even talking about it. And now the earliest we can even consider having an NHL season is February 9th. That's right, no hockey until almost mid-February. And here we all are in the pit of freezing January, what should be hockey weather, and the NHL won't be returning until it warms up! So what is the point of having a season? Do we really want hockey in summertime? And oh, by the way, by weekend's end it'll be assured that we won't even have a season by Valentine's Day. Even now people are trying to figure out scenarios for a 36-or-28 game regular season for the NHL, which would be comical to say the least. By all practical standards, the season is over and ruined, and now the fur is flying on the radio over it. People are beginning to realize what's happening and they're all upset.

What I have trouble believing is how most of the fans across Canada have been dealing with the lockout. A lot of people have gone on with their lives, but the diehard fans who can't live without hockey don't seem to be angry with the sport, or the NHL owners or players, for what they are doing to their own game right now. They are ruining their sport in North America by wiping out their own season, and yet people are all sitting on their hands! The customers ought to be mad as hell, and threatening to walk away from this sport forever, just like with major league baseball. Yet they're all doing nothing and giving the impression to all these bozos that when this mess is ever settled---- if it's ever settled- that they'll all be back cheering their teams on like mad. Maybe that's to be expected when fans have plenty of alternative hockey to follow and go to, whether it's the AHL or OHL or WHL or whatever. And now, some really fun news for Toronto Maple Leaf fans: the St. John's Baby Leafs may be facing early eviction from their arena in St. John's because of a possible strike over there in early February. In which case, guess what, the Baby Leafs will move to Toronto immediately, without waiting for next September to roll around. So yes, it looks like we hockey fans in Toronto won't have to fight the traffic on the drive to Hamilton to watch professional hockey, because it's coming sooner than we think. Good grief, here we all are in Toronto, getting hopes up for an AHL season. Ugh!!

And with rumblings that the NBA will lock out its players this fall when their own CBA expires, we could be looking at a complete mess in the professional sports world. We could have two entire major pro sports leagues shut down this fall, no joking. That'll leave the Toronto Blue Jays as the only major league club operating and playing games in all of Canada (CFL and NLL excepted). What a mess. What a total, complete, freaking mess.

And of course I'm caught up in it because, well, the industry I've been in has been decimated. You know, I'm glad I decided to go after other experience outside of sports broadcasting in the past year and a half. I knew Armageddon was coming, that everyone in Canada was going to be reduced to covering pee-wee games and I prepared for it; tried the best I could, anyway. But I don't have to be happy about it. Sports coverage was the one thing in broadcast journalism that I was really good at.

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