Thursday, February 10, 2005

NHL Via Morricone

At least now a hockey fan knows: a deal will either be in place by this weekend or all of us rabid fans can kiss the Stanley Cup Playoffs (in my mind, the greatest tournament in all of sports) goodbye, au revoir, ciao, insert foreign cliche here. If a deal is reached, a 28-game miniseason and full playoffs will happen, delivering a small but effective season where every game matters. Now I'm really on the edge of my seat.

I don't pretend to know that much about the details of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and why we're in this mess; you can get that from someone with a lot more experience and time on their hands. Yet, I do know this: It seems to me that the NHLPA is wrong. Plain wrong. Secret negotiations were held in Toronto yesterday and by some accounts, the owners made a few serious concessions to make the acceptance of a salary cap easier. Of course, the players flat turned it down. From an outsider "fringe" fan's perspective, the players are risking the game itself so they can make $5 million instead of $4.7 million. The owners are losing money, this we can prove. Is it their fault? Mostly, and you know what? Who fucking cares. The game has to be fixed PERIOD. ESPN, the network who has nurtured the NHL through the last decade, significantly cut its TV deal with the league. NBC took over for ABC, but at bargain basement price. The ratings for last year's Stanley Cup Playoffs were abyssmal, and replacement programming during the lockout (poker, bowling, curling, paint drying) has fared considerably better. What does this all mean? How do the players think they're going to gets paid, when no money is coming in? Fans are giving up, I would venture to say the league has decimated the casual fan interest in the game, they'll have to start from scratch EVEN IF they find a miracle deal that saves a season in 2005.

The owners aren't budging....NOT NOW, NOT IN 2006, NOT IN 2009. At worst, the NHL will dissolve and some semblance of a league will reform WITH A CAP. Either the players can come along and play ball, or FUCK EM. This is what the players don't realize, or seem willing to accept. The NHL, as much I absolutely love it, is not on the same page as MLB, the NBA, and the NFL. Golf, Tennis, even the WNBA are more successful. The players and owners need to find common ground and figure out how to fix the game or no one will be making any money at all. What's 42% of nothing? That's what I thought. The longer the game sits on the shelf, the more the essential casual fans the league is desperately trying to convert will disappear forever. The league is on life support and apparently they're just as happy to pull the plug.


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