The National Hockey League as we know it is over. At 2:35 PM EST in a New York hotel conference room, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced to the world that there would be a lockout commencing September 16, 2004 at a minute past midnight. The battle is between the NHL and the NHL Players Association. Both sides are at fault. For every argument thrown supporting one side, there is a rebuttle to be followed which is just as effective. For lack of a better term, the NHL is in a huge mess.
Let’s throw all the business terms aside. Collective bargaining agreement. Free agency. Arbitration. Think of the people, the innocent people. The kids who get through school from being an usher at the Bell Centre on gamedays. The owners whose sports bars thrive during hockey season, and dwindle in the off-season, simply counting down the days until hockey starts up again. I think most people are in agreeance with me when I say I don’t feel one ounce of sympothy for either side in this ridiculous war. Who I do feel bad for, are those who had no control over the issues.
And then there’s the fans. Ah, the fans. The folks whose hard-earned money fuels the inner-workings of all pro sports. Do the players or the league care that we’ll be lost on Saturday nights without our Hockey Night in Canada? I think they gave you their answer on Wednesday afternoon. It was a resounding no, that oozed of greed and a desire to have control.
If you ask me, please do not support the OSHL, WHA or whatever league the current NHL players go to. They will be making next to no money, to play the game they love. Funny to see they can play for no money, but when it comes time to provide us fans the game we love – they need every last quarter million dollar to themselves. Instead, go to a junior game. In Quebec, there is very competitive hockey at the QMJHL level, and even the Quebec Semi-Pro League is entertaining. In Ontario, and western Canada there’s the OHL and WHL. Then there’s the second tier junior, all who provide entertaining hockey for a fraction of the cost. And the love of the game has yet to be tarnished at such levels. I for one, will be turning in my Canadiens jersey for Mississauga’s OHL franchise, the IceDogs. Ten bucks to see the 2003 OHL finalists sounds like one heck of a deal to me.
Until then, enjoy your junior hockey. We’ll see which side cracks first, only time will tell.