As the lockout claims another two weeks of the NHL schedule and nears its third month, we decided a bit of group therapy was in order. With that in mind, here's our airing of the grievances. Please share yours as well.
J.J.: While the thought has been driven into the ground by now, I'll continue to echo the sentiment that while the end-result of the 2004-05 lockout was inevitable and understandably necessary from a health of the league standpoint, this current labor stoppage seems more about the NHL running through a script written by their law firm, Proskauer Rose in the NFL and NBA lockouts last year and that the end-result of this one is nothing more than a risk-reward calculation done by accountants and strategized by lawyers.
The bigger concern is that the sport of hockey no longer has a proper steward. The owners have shut the game down for money and the players have been all to willing to play the game by the owners' rules instead of taking the steps necessary to bring the competition back to the ice. We've heard about nothing but how to properly split the money that's expected to come in from fans and sponsors when the game comes back and contracting rights which further refines the business side of the sport.
Missing from those considerations are discussions about the competitive side of the sport. When hockey last left us, it was in a shape where half of the league's teams traveled 2-3x more than the other half; where headshots and goons were still a dangerous specter; where obstruction and interference had made a comeback, stifling creativity and leading to an increase in the frequency of diving (although not the enforcement of the penalty for doing it); where there was still a goofy set of lines behind the goal whose full effect was not understood before it was implemented; where there's a point system that muddles the standings and gives more importance to delaying a loss than hurrying a victory.
All of these considerations, the heart and soul of the game, have been put on the back-burner because apparently the game is in good-enough shape to shut down during an argument over money which the fans are expected to trust is crucial because the people having the argument won't give the details to their loving fans.
As a blogger, this sucks to cover. Trying to find interesting ways to reiterate the same points over and over while other interests and responsibilities fill the nights and weekends that would otherwise be filled with the sport I love gets more challenging by the day and my confidence that a game run entirely by people who are concerned with packaging their product for quantity over quality can adequately distract me from the disturbing look behind the curtain that the players and owners have given all of us over the last four months.
Jeff: I'm frustrated. I'm extremely frustrated.
Like J.J. said, the last lockout was necessary for the financial good of the game. This lockout, however, is a money grab by the owners. And the players? Yes, you want a fair deal and you hired Donald Fehr to get it for you. Fehr doesn't care about the game though and he was too damn busy worrying about writing his freakin' book the last few years than to start negotiations and discussions before late in the summer.
Both sides are awful.
This lockout hasn't made me miss hockey. I can see hockey at other levels whenever I want. I'm lucky to live in Boston where there are four college teams in the city and multiple AHL teams that are all within driving distance. If I need live hockey, I can find.
I've been angry. I've been sad. I've felt the range of emotions. Eventually it becomes a battle of not letting it bring me down. It's just easier not to feel anything sometimes. I'm thankful to have had the Tigers playoff run as a major distraction. I'm thankful to have the Lions -- as crappy as their season has been -- to give me something to yell at my TV about. Instead of getting annoyed at Mike Babcock's lack of playing young guys on the top line where they need to be, I can get angry at Jim Schwartz for being an idiot (You win J.J.).
Will I return when the game comes back? I will. I technically have to due to my work, so even if I wanted to quit the game, I couldn't ignore it at all costs. The time I invest in the NHL might not be what it was though. They'll have to earn my fanhood back.
I'm just sick of the bickering. I'm sick of both sides saying that the other side won't negotiate. I'm sick of the PR spins. I'm sick of the players' shenanigans. I'm sick of the owners' greed.
I blame Bettman. I blame Fehr. I blame Daly. I blame the players. I blame the owners (yes, even the Ilitch family).
They're all to blame. They're all ruining a great game. The NHL is the bastard child of major professional sports and it's destined to stay that way forever due to the idiots on both sides.
Thanks a lot of ruining the season.
Chris: Link (The Frustration of the NHL Lockout)
Graham: It's the Monday after Thanksgiving, and we hockey fans sit here waiting anxiously for the NHL and NHLPA to get their shit together and come up with a deal that will give us our hockey back.
The emotional response from hockey fans has ranged from total outrage to complete apathy. Fans are mad that for the 2nd time in less than 10 years, a significant portion of the schedule has been lost due to a labor stoppage. What makes it worse this time is that, unlike the first lockout when it was obvious that change needed to be made to the economic system of the NHL, it appeared that both sides were thriving under the latest CBA. Revenues were higher than they've ever been while players were still seeing salaries go up.
Yet, here we sit, nearly December and no deal in sight. Everybody has reacted differently to this whole mess, and I have analyzed and picked apart my own response trying to understand what I feel about the situation. What I've come to realize is something both profound and saddening: I don't care.
I thought I'd be like many people, frothing at the mouth while I hurled insults and complaints against one side (*cough*the owners*cough*) for taking hockey away yet again. But as the days have passed into the weeks and now months, my desire to see the NHL returns subsides just a bit. Hell, last week when they were meeting and it cautious optimism was rampant, the best response I could muster up was "meh".
It's hard to generate much of an emotional response to two sides of people who seem hell-bent on destroying the NHL. I say "the NHL" and not "hockey" because this lockout has allowed me to appreciate the sport as a whole while ignoring the NHL. Maybe it's the fact this is the 3rd labor stoppage in my lifetime (4th if you count the very short players' strike in 1992) or the fact that I'm getting older and my priorities are changing, but my desire to see the NHL return has never been lower.
The funny part about all of this is that the anger I feel related to the lockout is due to the apathy I feel for the lockout. I was part of the stereotypical Canadian family, gathering around the TV on Saturday nights to watch Hockey Night in Canada and cheer on the Leafs (until I got older and realized the error of my ways). Even as I got older, the NHL became a focal point of my life. Family gatherings usually had the game on in the background, and I spent many nights with my friends watching the NHL playoffs as they cheered on the Leafs and I attempted to hide my disdain.
The rise of Twitter and other forms of social media has also played a large part of my feelings (or lack thereof) towards the lockout. Unlike the previous labor stoppages, we are getting minute by minute updates on negotiations, and along with those updates we're getting instant analysis, both from the media and other fans. Maybe it's just me, but seeing journalists who I used to respect fly off the deep end with their take on what happened in a closed negotiation session is irritating. Throw in the responses from other fans and it's not hard to see why I get turned off by the whole thing, especially when most of the news on negotiations has been negative to this point.
Who do I blame for this? Ultimately I'm siding with the players, because they gave up a hell of a lot in 2005 and now are once again forced to sit on the sidelines and look for other jobs while the owners try to blow up a system that they wanted. We don't get to hear how the individual owners feel about the lockout since most of them probably don't want to pay out a cool $1M in fines for breaking the "code" of the BOG. However, the players have had no problems letting their feelings be known, and this is just as infuriating because not one of them has the balls to call out their own owner for this, instead taking the easy way out and blaming Gary Bettman.
What's going to happen in the future? Not a clue. I'd be surprised if a full season were lost, simply because I can't imagine that the owners are so stubborn that they're willing to sacrifice yet another season in the name of "winning" this CBA. The players have made it clear that they want to play, which is great, but I don't need to hear about how much they want to kill Bettman anymore.
What's going to get me to come back isn't my love of the league or my devotion to the Red Wings. It's going to be because of the friendships I've formed due to the NHL and this site; the memories that were made at games and watching with friends; and silly things like anteater pics and bad jokes in game threads.
NHL and NHLPA, get it together. It's bad enough that you've set the league back by turning off all those casual fans you gained in the last 7 years; now you're on the verge of alienating the hardcore, devoted fans that keep you in business. Because if too many fans feel the way I do, it's not long before there won't be a league to speak of.