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Short Season Swagger: Real Fans won’t Boycott the NHL

Sailun Tires

I don’t get it, the people who insist they’re going to vote with their feet and wait
out this asterisk-laden, abridged NHL season to make some greater point about
how they, the real fans, have been left out in the cold. A general strike would leave
concession hotdogs unchewed, $12 beers unpurchased, and seats empty (sort of
like a Panther’s game). They want to cut out the evil hearts that put profits ahead
of hockey, and then flaunted greed with a fake apology afterwards. At best they’re
absolutely delusional and at worst they’re crybabies, but in both cases they’re
wrong and I’ll try to use the soap box writing for a men’s magazine gives me to try
and explain why.

Reason #1: It Was Bound to Happen.
I’m not going to tell you that it had to happen, or that it needed to happen, but
anybody who was paying attention knew this thing was going to drag out and also
knew they’d be playing come January. Both sides were gearing up for this, Fehr’s
game plan was to “win” through patience, so much so that he didn’t even really
start until the lockout started. The NHL is a stone that wouldn’t bleed for the PA
until it absolutely had to, and the players (or rather their reps) knew they had the
high ground and that the best deal was going to come after they raked the former’s
reputation through the coals. The also clearly wanted the commissioner out, and
after the season, they might just get their wish. If there was anybody not on the NHL
board that still liked Gary Bettman in the hockey world before the Lockout, there
isn’t now.

Reason #2: NHL hockey is good.
I’m a red-blooded Canuck and I love NHL hockey, I really do, but I’m not a martyr
for it and I haven’t really been in anguish these past few months. Now that they’ve
arguably got their fiscal house in some kind of order, it’s on with the show and
I’m glad. Was it a gong show? Yes. Did they take fans for granted? Sure, but my
heart will go on, and the pleasure I take in flipping on a hockey game outweighs my
distain for labor relations by a metric tonne. I’m not into self-flagellation, at least not
in this case.

Reason #3: The War’s Over.
Staging a boycott doesn’t teach anybody a lesson, especially not the players that’ll
all be retired with concussions by the time the CBA expires. Explain to me how
embarrassing the game teaches billionaires not to be dicks? We’ve all been through
an uncomfortable time watching George Parros pretend he knows what CBA
actually stands for, and the dirty work has been done. We’re over the hump, enjoy it,
god knows we’ve earned it.

Reason #4: The League Could Actually Be in Trouble.
Not to Henny Penny this, but sponsors and broadcasters tied to the NHL (very tied,
they’re co-owners in most regards) aren’t loving the BS any more than the fans,

and it’s all a negative inertia that could see more and more “will they won’t they”
franchises crumble. Nobody is going to argue that the NHL wouldn’t look better
if they shed a few teams, but there’s a critical mass that could spell trouble when
teams like New Jersey and Tampa have even worse attendance. We drone on and on
about “casual fans” but if enough of them turn their attention away, the NHL goes
back to bush league antics and giving away TV rights to the Outdoor network. The
billionaire owners do not love you, they never did and they never will, it’s not even
their job to love you, they just want money. Apart from a handful of exceptions all
of them have bigger financial kettles in the fire than their hockey clubs, and if the
numbers say cut and run, you can bet your imaginary pension that’s what they’ll do.

Reason #5. We’re in for an amazing season.
One of the most important jobs of and hockey fan is to pretend the 80 game season
isn’t a complete, dragging, lumbering piece of crap. It’s our cross to bear and I’ll
carry it gladly, but how many regular season games are we subjected to that are
just a complete, meaningless footnote on the way to the playoffs? 50 games, on the
other hand, means when teams face off against each other, they won’t know what
to expect, having not seen their adversaries 15 times already. Better still, they’ll be
fighting like high-toned maniacs for the postseason spots that’ll be up for grabs even
in April. Less injuries, less fatigue and even less opportunities for Barry Melrose to
open his stupid, stupid mouth. This could be the season of the upset, it could be the
start of a new dynasty, and every team is going to have all their superstars firing on
all cylinders. I’m going bananas just thinking about it.


Written by: Jeremy P Beal


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