Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fehr And Loathing... Mostly Loathing

Amazing what a Lockout can do....

It can inspire jaw-dropping venomous hate one moment... and uncontrollable, unbridled hate the next.

And you haven't been reading about it here... mostly because I haven't been writing about it here. Why...? Well, let's face it... one can only write about the same jaw-dropping, venomous, uncontrollable and unbridled hate so many times before it gets old. And I'll admit... when it comes to certain issues in hockey -- but especially a Lockout -- I can be a pretty freakin' hateful guy.

So... while this Lockout -- and my ability (so far) to keep my hateful rage in check has been absolute murder on my blog's SEO... if I were constantly bitching about it, that would probably have the same effect.

Even Lewis Black kicks back with an herbal tea once in a while, right?

Still, I can only take a break for so long. I can pretty much count the number of people at my work who know/care about hockey on three fingers. They respectively cheer for the Capitals, Flyers and Predators. Needless to say, between being a fan of the Blue Jackets and Bruins makes for some interesting conversations on occasion... but for the most part, I don't spend time at work ranting about how much this Lockout sucks.

Home? Nope... no sympathy there.

"God has given me a year... let me enjoy it," the Mrs. says to me.

Honey, God gave you a year eight years ago. Sorry, Can't let that happen again.

However, the NHL and NHLPA seem determined to do it.

So... as you read this... you're essentially sitting in on a therapy session -- in which I'm in the chair and on the couch.

Now, to be fair, the, uh... Expletives In Suits are gathering Tuesday to supposedly try to work out some differences. The last couple of meetings have dealt only with "secondary" issues -- things like free agency and drug testing. The latter of which -- if Donald Fehr gets his way -- I'm assuming will mean that performance-enhancing drugs will be allowed to run rampant in hockey the way it has in baseball, and there won't be enough testing to ensure that officials can actually do something about it.

So, essentially thugs can continue doing whatever it is they do with bath salts. Sidney Crosby can up his dose of whatever hormone causes him to actually grow facial hair in the Playoffs.

And so we just wait. All that many of us can do is log in to our ticket plans and watch as those canceled games disappear, watch those payments leave our bank accounts in the hope that the league and the players can shut up, grow up, agree on a couple of numbers and give us something at least close to a full hockey season.

But noooooooo... that'd be too convenient for the Expletives In Suits.

"We want to keep 57 percent."

"Screw you... you're getting 43 percent of a record $3.3 billion."

"Okay, how about we go 54.5 percent, and slowly roll back to 52.3 percent..."

"Screw you... you'll take 46."

And so on, and so forth.

I mean, sure... yay-woo... Gary Bettman, Bill Daly and the Fehr brothers are going back to the table.

Is there hope? Sure.

But I'm not holding my breath.

And I'm not sure the Expletives In Suits care. If they did, there would be more, serious negotiation going on instead of the same B.S. we're hearing from both sides.

And unfortunately, the only people we're hearing from are the ones who are part of the problem. Guys like Allan Walsh, who treats followers on Twitter to pro-union propaganda on a daily basis, and rants about how the owners are greedy. Ummmm, okay.

Or how about little Disney Crosby himself... and his "There's their deal and then there's our deal and they want their deal."

Wow, Gary... all that ass-kissing on Crosby over the last seven years, and the face of your league is making you out to be the @$$hole.

Now, don't get me wrong, Gary... he's absolutely right. You are. However, so is he. So is Daly, and so are the Fehr brothers. It's a phenomenon that is firmly on both sides of the table.

And the fans are paying for it. Even worse, business owners who rely on hockey games to drive business to their businesses in the NHL's 30 markets are paying for it.

Bettman's stooge, Bill Daly can say all he wants about how much the league has lost by cancelling the preseason an the first five games of the regular season. He's not in danger of losing his salary. His business made $3.3 billion last year.

He should complain about the NHL's losses to some of the business owners in the Arena District.

To their faces.

And be ready and willing to accept how they react.

And how about the fans who won't come back? You want to talk about losses, Gary?

Remember before the last Lockout, when ESPN The Magazine released "The Ultimate Standings" -- the comprehensive ranking of all the franchises of the Big Four Sports? Remember when the expansion Columbus Blue Jackets were ranked the #1 Fan Experience of all those teams?

Fast forward to the next time ESPN published the list, as the NHL was mired the 2004-05 Lockout. The magazine wrote something to the effect of "a league that would cancel an entire season and do what it did to its fans did not deserve to be a part of the list."

When the NHL did come back... ESPN wouldn't touch the NHL with the proverbial ten-foot pole, and Bettman acted like the NHL didn't need ESPN.

So, he decided to slum it with NBC which some revenue-sharing deal (read: he gave it away because no one else would take it). Between the chronically bad television coverage and being sandwiched between Tribute to Fleetwood Mac on Ice and Professional Bull Riding, the NHL suffered a serious hit to its credibility.

Meanwhile, ESPN continues to give the NHL the middle finger, by making KHL hockey available for hockey fans who need their fix.

So... Dear Expletives In Suits:

Twenty-four of the NHL's 30 teams are in America, guys. America is not by any means a hockey nation. There are a lot of sports (both real and NASCAR) that successfully compete against hockey for the American attention span... and that's when hockey is IN SEASON, gentlemen.

The NHL fan base is a niche market. And fans don't have patience for a sport that has a work stoppage on a regular basis. Screw this up like you did eight years ago... well, you sure as hell won't be fighting over $3.3 billion in revenues again anytime soon.

Find a middle ground, and grow the **** up.

Now.

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MORE PRE- AND DURING-LOCKOUT COVERAGE
9/16/2012: Box Full Of Letters, Part IV: The NHL and NHLPA... (and if you like, you can mail the Jumble to the NHL and/or the NHLPA, too!)

9/15/2012: Box Full Of Letters (Postcard Edition), Part I: The Columbus Blue Jackets

9/14/2012: No Year's Eve

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