The No Hockey League. BLAME IT ON THE RED SOX!!!
The last time the Stanley Cup wasn’t awarded was 1919 because of a flu epidemic. 1919 was also the last time the Boston Red Sox were defending World Series champions. They are currently the defending champs. Curse Of The Zamboni???
Fitting that a sport who has ties as a major part of their records….kind of ended their season in one. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman today announced the cancellation of the 2004-2005 NHL season. This news came at really a shock to no one….since rumblings of this occurring were evident even during last season
So…who wins? Technically no one.
But, if this was a heavyweight boxing bout that went the distance…..looking at the scorecard you’d think that the owners won. If what they say is true….many owners may have been better off not having a season than red-lining through a season. They also achieved three things. First they showed solidarity and the ability to stand firm on their issues….what they wanted to do. Second, they actually got the players union to crack into accepting a salary cap. Sure, they were millions apart on the cap number…..but they made the union flinch. Third, Bob Goodenow, the guy in charge of the union, looks bad and has lost some of the player’s support. He may not be their guy when a deal is finally reached.
So what happens now? Unless Goodenow fears his job is in jeopardy [which may be regardless of what happens] and caves in to the NHL in the near future….probably nothing goes on. Many players have signed with European teams for the season [with clauses they can come back to America if the NHL season begins]. However, there are many who aren’t playing at all. With the season cancelled and the players elsewhere…it is conceivable that the two sides won’t meet until late summer or fall when training camps are set to open. The next NHL game you see may have replacement players. The next time you see legit NHL players on the ice together will be in the 2006 Winter Olympics.
Of course, using replacement players is rather dicey. Not only would the NLRB like to see what is going on?but Quebec and British Columbia prohibit using replacement workers in a labor dispute. There is also items like the 2005 Entry Draft that need to be sorted out.
This is a sport that is fragile at best. I mean, aside from the Stanley Cup Finals [which does get upstaged by the NBA Finals], this whole gridlock is the only time you see hockey as a main story. The only time many of us bother to talk about the league. Fans still have hard feelings toward Major League Baseball for canceling the 1994 World Series. Imagine what kind of outrage there would be in the NFL stopped playing. Yet, aside from their fan base and sports media?.no one really cares about the NHL. For many of us?.that just means more NCAA hoops on ESPN and more NBA highlights on SportsCenter.
The NHL is priced out of its fan base?.and whether you believe it or not, there is a solid fan base. Look at the ECHL who does better than some minor league baseball teams and definitely better than any of those lower tier basketball leagues. But, those fans watch affordable hockey. Hockey that you take your entire family to. Not when you are charging more than the NBA or MLB?.much more popular sports in the US.
The NHL also has an identity crisis?..one they really need to address. I mean?it is the sport of Canada?.played in the United States?.by Europeans. There is no franchise in Quebec City?.but there is one in Raleigh. No team in Winnipeg?but one in Anaheim. A sport that is played on ice?in cities like Miami, Los Angeles, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Nashville and Phoenix.
The NHL also has the ?thug? image it has to shed. Sure, fighting is a part of hockey?.but in the past few years there have been two instances that have warranted trials for vicious hits while on the ice. You also have the Mike Danton situation where the Blues forward put a hit out on his agent.
At the core issue is two things?..the players? salaries are outweighing the NHL?s intake?.and the fact that the league over expanded and underutilized their assets to try to get some quick money. How can hockey work in 30 cities?? The NBA just expanded to 30 teams?.and the NFL, who doesn?t even have a Los Angeles franchise, has just 2 more teams. So how can hockey do that, yet charge the same amount of money for tickets??
In my mind, the NHL will never be the same. There may be some franchises folding. There may be some sweeping rules changes to open up the offense. In any event?the NHL, as we know it, is dead.