Friday, February 18, 2005


This is like a bad soap opera. How embarrassing is this? The NHL cancels its season, and now people want to un-cancel it. This is pathetic. Even if they uncancel themselves and have a 28-game season in the middle of summer, the NHL will have still made a spectacle of themselves during this week. That whole cancel-the-season press conference seems to be looking at this hour like yet another negotiating tactic and it makes me sick.

In any event we are hearing rumors and unconfirmed reports of players and agents working on proposals that they want to take to the League, for a 45 million hard cap, for a 42 million tax, and so on. And they want to present them to Gary Bettman. I'm also hearing pro-owner people on the radio still saying that Bettman has left the door open to re-starting the season, but that the players should simply cave in and accept the 42.5 hard cap. Well if that's the stance there won't be a season, but I don't know.

The other thing out there are these reports of Gretzky and Lemieux getting involved to save the season. But Gretzky went on the radio to downplay those reports, and besides, they're owners. Really it's the players who need to come up with something.

We're also hearing comments from players like Mike Modano questioning the union leadership and really, that's exactly the kind of stuff Gary Bettman wants to hear. He's out to kill this union. The more dissent the better. I suspect some of these rumors might be from the ownership side of the table, trying to stir the pot and cause trouble. If it is, this is a really inventive strategy and it might work.

These people in the sport of hockey seem to me to be regretting their shotgun decision to blow themselves up. Now they are taking a beating in the media and they're hearing the comments from all the hockey fans, even in Canada, who now say they are finished with the sport and will put it out of business.

Now even ESPN is getting into the act. They are now on record stating that they are rethinking their relationship with the National Hockey League and thinking about cancelling them at the first opportunity so they could run other sports. Wow, I don't think the NHL saw these statements coming from ESPN. The NHL needs ESPN to show national games and to spread the game in the United States. Everyone remembers the dark ages when the NHL had no network TV deal and were stuck on Sportschannel America, a network nobody could bleeping watch! And in the early 80s they were on USA, a non-sports network, which was almost as bad a situation. Nobody could see the league's games! This sports needs to be on a network and needs to be on ESPN. Say what you will about American coverage of the NHL, but ESPN cares about the game. Well, they care more than the broadcast networks do. They make an effort with this sport. Losing them would be a total disaster for the league.

This move by ESPN may have gotten the higher-ups in the league worried. They all assumed the fans would come back. Well, if ESPN goes, the fans won't come back. And the NHL has taken such a beating in the press in Canada that it's questionable that all the Canadian fans will come back. They certainly won't all be back if the league returns from this mess with the same sky-high ticket prices and clutch-and-grab rules. All the Canadian fans thought this was about saving the Oilers and the Flames, and about getting Winnipeg back in the league... that this was all about principle. But now we know, it's all about the money. That's all it is about.

And the NHL is making fools out of itself and its fans.

UPDATE: Here's a story on all of these stories and rumors about people trying to un-cancel the season. And you can tell how the fans are reacting: they all think this is total nonsense. And it's not just the NHL that looks ridiculous now, it's everyone associated with the game including the media and all the fans. Guys, give up already, it's mid-February, and this season is DONE. This season SHOULD be cancelled. If you uncancel the season the first puck will be dropped in March, in the middle of the NCAA Hoops Tournament! The fans want this nonsense over with. If you're going to come back, come back this fall when presumably you have your act together, you bunch of losers!

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