I have been mulling this day and this blog post for acouple of weeks now, trying not to make it sound like an advertisement for the NHL. However, I will endeavor to say why all fans, even those turned off by the off ice shenanigans of recent months.
REMEMBER WHY YOU LOVE THE GAME
All fans became fans for a reason. The quality of product on the ice and the entertainment it provides. I know the nostalgic “veteran” fans long for the day of the original six when men were men and hockey players needed to work a summer job to get by. The game is faster now, the skill level isn’t even comparable to the players of today and three goaltending? If you watched any of the classic games on Hockey Night in Canada during the lockout, today’s shooters would laugh.
Players today are bigger, faster, stronger and more developed than their predecessors. And face the facts, somewhere along the line it became a business. Because people cared so much. Owners saw a need and filled a market. Players, until the formation of the NHLPA were taken advantage of, and playing the game they loved, while the owners made out like bandits on their backs. Then the NHLPA came along and demanded fair treatment. They got it, and both sides reaped the benefits on their backs.
More markets got into the action and demand increased as did the value of their investments and the value of the special set of skills that they bring to the ice. Whether you like it or not, the collective group of fans are to blame for the lockout. The NHL is providing a service, and in a free market economy you have the choice to take it or leave it. The NHL kept growing and growing revenue-wise even after they lost an entire season.
Players get paid what they do because you pay the owners, through your purchase of tickets, Centre Ice packages, merchandise and tall cold beverages at the concession stand, for the right to watch your favorite team play, because you care.
You love the game of hockey for the same reasons you did six months ago when free agency opened, six years ago when the NHL ended the last lockout, or 60 years ago when the Leafs last won a Cup (yes,I know it is only 45, but give me a little creative license here). It became a business because people like you demanded it. And while the last 113 days have been frustrating for everyone on the outside as much as the inside of the lockout, it was necessary. Both sides needed the time to get the best deal they could to continue on. You can argue about whether the lockout was necessary and if it really needed to drag on for 113 days, but that is water under the bridge.
I know that many people are fed up with the politics of the game and have threatened to walk away from it altogether. People have called for an NHL boycott to “teach them a lesson”. While I understand those sentiments, I don’t see why they would deny themselves the thing that brings them so much pleasure, pain, dismay, anger and occasionally euphoria, essentially an emotional roller coaster ride, just because of less than 4 months of interruption. The game is the same, the players are the same, the heroes are the same. The pedestal you put them on is the reason the issue of money is so close to the top of mind in not only hockey but all pro sports.
You no doubt found other things to occupy your time over the last 113 days, whether it be other league’s, other sports or other forms of entertainment altogether. Those things were there before the lockout and will still be there after. You were a hockey fan because you chose to be. Nobody forced you. Nobody is forcing you to stay a hockey fan, or at least an NHL fan. You could be of the opinion that the owners and players don’t care about the fans because they sat in boardrooms for four months when they should have been on the ice, and you are entitled to feel slighted in that way.
I, for one, understand and expected it, and now that the temporary pain is over, and I have had the unwanted reminder of what life is like without the greatest game on earth, I am more than ready to resume being a fan….and writing about it.