So, as some of you may have noticed as the weather turned colder and your desire for watching the best sport in the world started to become supplanted by other, less worthy of your fandom pursuits, it sucks not having hockey right now. Sure, there are the Vancouver Giants and Chicago Wolves, the latter at least giving you a taste of what your puck addiction craves.
Those are Canuck kids that you can actually see in the uniform. The junior game is something that is always fun to watch live, but can you really see TSN and SNET playing that? Oh, wait, you mean they are? ( SNET has CHL games, and has for years, and the AHL will get more exposure too ) Even with all that, these are trying times for NHL fans.
So, where are we at? Are the billionaires still sticking it to the millionaires? This is the time in these types of things where you hear the stories and quotes about things that may or not have been said. There is as much spin and mistruths as a Mitt Romney debate, all coming fast and furious. Hockey fans' heads start spinning, not knowing if it is as bad as they thought, or worse.
For what it is worth, neither do I. I do think, and still stand by the same positive prediction of the first of these missives on the one thing in hockey I did NOT want to be talking about, CBA negotiations. I am still saying that they will get it done in time to have a few weeks before the Winter Classic Sponsorfest becomes their "apology" to the folks actually paying the money that they are bickering over.
Yes, I saw Bob McKenzie's series of tweets on a "second season lost". Big Bobby is entitled to his opinion, and heaven knows he is more plugged in than you or I. He certainly gets it right more often than not. That's why everyone follows him. But he is also a fan of the game like us all, and even more importantly, he did say that all of that little screed was "speculation". Perhaps these scary "rumours" of this all being a precursor to the star chamber of hockey mavens led by Jeremy Jacobs and Ed Snider bulldoze through on their scheme to "break" the NHLPA have some merit. Myself, I doubt that severely. Regardless of what someone heard 1st, 2nd, or even 4th handed at some boozy cocktail affair where drinks were free and lips were loosened and repeated ( or whatever, I am just spitballing here ) embellished along the way until it became full on "SCARY", there is little doubt that it would ever happen.
Surely, smart business men, successful men that have climbed to the top of the 1% did not get there by accident. Maybe a few idiot stepbrothers along the way come into big piles of money, but most of them are folks that made their way to the top of something. There is one thing in common with high achievers. They are rarely stupid. Stubborn, and egotistical, sure. But not dumb. Look around at all professional sports leagues. They all have some form of players association, union, or other collective way of bargaining. The NHL has a long and storied history going back to the names that are spoken with reverence to this day. The Lindsays, Howes, Richards and others. There is simply no plausibility to that particular conspiracy. They want to get something. Of course they do. Another way of controlling costs that they will again give to the GM's to shred with "loopholes" within the first month.
There is reality and then there is spin. Without the reality to even imagine at this point, its all spin. So, what do we know? We know that there has been a lot of talking and meeting when you compare this lockout to previous ones. Most of the details of that are staying in the room at this point, though both Donald and Gary have been out recently to get their sides out in papers like the Globe and Mail, or on sports radio across Canada ( And I am assuming in the U.S too ) but its not like they are calling each other names and trying to get the other fired as occurred with Goodenow last time. There is no way that Gary can expect to have that kind of fissure. He knows and respects Mr Fehr because its obvious to everyone that he is the NHLPA's Mr Wolf ( I half expect to see a clip when this is all said and done of Bieksa and say...Kesler in a booth eating breakfast..."did you see when Gary was fucking with him? He did'nt even get mad...."? Yes, Donald is definitely "on the MFer", to quote Jules from Pulp Fiction.
So, the rest of us are left to fill the time. Its weird. Rosterbation is way way down, because the fans need there to be actual potential trades and moves to make that really fun to talk about. Me, I have been enjoying Twitter and have taken to enjoying the first Post Truth presidential election in American history.
But that is done November 6th? What if they are not done by then? ( Actually, that is about the time I expect a deal get done...maybe by the end of October ) But thats over three weeks from now at a minimum. Well, there is Canadian Carting championships on SNET if you like. Tennis seems to have found a home there. TSN has poker to put on heavy rotation, and the Lumberjack competitions will have to fight with the heavy dose of curling that is going to come your way. ( Seriously, for out American readers. If you want to shake your head at those crazy Canucks up North, its not hockey you want to mock, its curling. The ratings for that, hockey of no hockey, will blow your mind in Canada. We've even all played it at least a few times. At our level drinking is heavily involved when we do though. At the pro level they don't. But they do make a ton of freaking cash doing it. Crazy, huh? ) Honestly, I am sure with the five hundred channel universe, you are filling the time.
That's not to say we are going to forget hockey. I do think there is something to the NHL losing steam in the USA, and that casual viewers will have to be won back. The league its owners are not doing themselves and favours there. But the hardcores like we find here, in every Canadian market and in a surprising number of American markets, will definitely be a softer sell. We already think hockey is awesome, even if they have to insist on having the absolute stupidest labour relations every once in a while.
IF they come back around the time I said. If this goes into cancelled season territory, you can bet that even lifers like me might start saying "screw it". Because what this business is doing is stupid, if they are seriously that entrenched. Why would you risk even your hardcore addicts breaking their addiction, let alone the casual partakers of the drug of hockey? Second question Mr Bettman sir, how is it possible that you would do that after a deal in which you "got what we need for the game" resulted in real and discernible growth in both dollars and market share. You just signed a ten year deal to give you the exposure you need in your less successful marketplace, and now you want to just say "Meh"?
So, yes, we are all pissed. Frustrated, Angry at all sides. And, yes, "at a certain point" the Canadian Carting championships might look pretty tempting. But hockey is still a great game. So we'll still follow the AHL and junior team while we wait. Fill the time with this "alternate programming" they are offering us while we wait. Some small numbers may be falling away, and the NHL should realize that our patience is not infinite.
But we'll be back. Probably. Maybe. But we'll also keep putting the pressure on, NHL owners. Don't be surprised if the hue and cry does not get louder as we go on here. But, for those of you going through your first lockout, even with the recent leak of Twitterers like Toews and others making barbed comments, or fellas like Roenick going "full tea party" ( a totally made up, by me, rumour. JR was seen at the Denver airport talking to Tim Thomas about a bunker..."just in case" ) ...remember that there are guys like Kevin Bieksa that organize a way for the charities that the Canucks support, that are suffering, to make some donations come in while still playing hockey. Hockey players are mainly the best guys in the world.
So we'll be back. But that does not mean, as heartening as it was for me to see that there were meetings in T.O recently, that having a "meeting to figure out our next meeting" is the best use of your time Mr Daly. I know you and Steve Fehr just set 'em up for others to knock down.
Lets speed this shit up a bit, huh?