I have to admit the past few months a majority of my tweets from my twitter account had to deal with me cracking jokes about the current lockout the NHL is facing. The people I live with up at school and a good amount of my followers are die hard hockey fans, so I figured it would only be fitting for me to laugh about the current problems the owners and players are facing in the NHL, as it has brought some of my friends and myself the extra time to enjoy and watch all other major sports like the NBA and the NFL.
I began my tweets of the NHL lockout by tweeting at my roommate and saying, “Yesterday began the first day of my new comedy tweet series called NHL (L.M.A.O) LockingMyA$$Out #hockeyfansenjoy.” This was a day after I tweeted at my same roommate saying to him “so if there’s no NHL season, and you just played #nhl13, does that mean the teams in the game are in demo mode?”
Some later tweets of mine were: “Q: what does a 40-year-old-virgin and a 2012-2013 NHL arena have in common this year? A: they’re both getting no play #LockingMyA$$Out.”
Or on November 29th I tweeted: “Wings v Kings tn if NHL wasn’t locked out. I’d have bacon strips and pork chops for brkfst if I wasn’t a Muslim. #$hithappens #LockingMyA$$Out.”
My point to all of this is that I had my fun teasing my friends who are probably devastated at the fact the sport they grew up watching ever since they were kids is close to being held out for a year. Which is why I am writing this article, because even through all the jokes and laughs I’ve made, it’s really sad to see that after 103 days of being locked out both sides of the dispute could not yet come to an agreement and give their fans something to cheer about?
Now I don’t like talking about the entire mumble jumble that happens in those meetings and who is right or wrong. But we don’t have to be in those meetings to understand that money is the issue here. I think President Obama said it best when talking about the NHL lockout as he told league officials and players to “do right by your fans.” In all of this nonsense between this side is not getting enough money or this side is being mistreated, people tend to forget what is the most important aspect of the game, which is the people who are watching it. And all blame goes to the commissioner of the NHL, Gary Bettman.
Bettman became commissioner of the NHL in 1993. In the span of 20 years NHL fans have witnessed three prolonged lockouts: during the 1994-95 season where the teams just played 48 games that year, in 2004-05 where teams lost the entire season, and now. Another thing that irks the nerves of hockey fans is the contract deals he has made with television programs like Versus, which coming from a fan that watches sports and knows the NHL game well enough to understand what is going on, doesn’t know where that channel is on from any cable network. I understand the NHL receives more money from these networks, but for the commissioner the question becomes “are you trying to expand the sport throughout the country or keep the same fans that watch the NHL on the NHL.” I think taking a pay deficit to negotiate a contract with ESPN would have been a much better idea for the NHL long term because they’ll start to get fans who watch what’s on the most televised sports network to watch hockey. I can’t tell you how many people I know who grab the remote and turn ESPN as their first destination to watching television. If the NHL is on they have the decision to turn the channel or not, whereas playing hockey games on a no name network doesn’t even give a fan to decide on what he wants to watch.
Now I understand Bettman hasn’t become a complete strikeout for the NHL. I have read that ever since he has entered as the NHL’s commissioner the leagues revenue has increased significantly, especially after the 2004-05 locked out season. But with that said, why then would you want to slow down any positive feedback you’re getting from your fans by locking out another NHL season. It just doesn’t make sense to me. If the NHL is on the rise and is earning the most bucks it has ever made in its history, why are there no games being played at this moment? Why are you depriving innocent people who love this game as much as they love their religion in some cases from watching the sport they were brought up with? More than 50% of the games this season have been cancelled. History was also about to be made this year when my hometown team the Detroit Red Wings were going to face off against cross country rivals the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium on January 1st, 2012. With the stadium being able to hold over 110,000 fans, analysts were predicting that this game would have been the most watched game in NHL history.
So there is more to it than just money and show business, there’s also history not being made because of this lockout. The NHL is the fourth most watched sport in the U.S. behind the NFL, NBA, and MLB. Growing up in the downtown Detroit area I admit I watched all those sports in that order, NHL being the last, and still will admit to you that Detroit’s heart and soul is revolved around hockey. We are a hockey town, and downtown just has not been the same without the Red Wings. The NHL was just coming off a magical season where they witnessed an 8th seed who just tippy-toed into the playoffs win the Stanley Cup. The LA Kings made history last year and they are the most road warrior team I can ever remember from any sport I have ever watched. It’s time the league and its players put their pride to the side and realize what’s best for the fans, because it’s the fans who have been there through all the ups and downs of the NHL, not the league or the players. You’re always a fan of the game, you’re not always a part of the league.