The National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players’ Association have made a serious fool out of themselves in the past 113 days and, despite saving the season after the lockout, many are still calling this year a failure. Fans are threatening a boycott, saying they’ve lost respect for the league, and teams are desperately trying to portray their embarrassment and remorse by slashing prices off tickets and merchandise.
Can the fans really recover from this disappointment or will they be less willing to forgive and forget?
The NHL has a lot to prove
by Brian Hutchinson
It seems the drum of silence that has been the National Hockey League and National Hockey League Players’ Association negotiations has come to an abrupt, boisterous end. The puck will drop, the fans will gather and the beer will once again flow into welcoming mugs to celebrate another hockey season (to the delight of many local restaurant and bar owners). Despite the return of hockey, the fans are left with a bitter taste.
Throughout the lockout, we have been subjected to months of consultations summed up by remarks made by mediators, and jumbled through different interpretations by so-called experts in the media. Now we are asked to forget all we have endured. For some, our love of the sport is too great to be cynical and angry toward our beloved game. For others, the lengthy absence was just enough to blur our affection and replace it with irritation. “Million dollar babies,” “self righteous” and “egotistical,” are some of the words and phrases used when discussing the lockout with the latter group.
It seems there will be a 48 game season, as opposed to the regular 82 games. For those of us that have a sour feeling resonating through our being, this is unacceptable. Can a team really be crowned the sacred “Stanley Cup Champions” at the end of a deprived hockey season? It undermines the value of a gruelling 82 game season we have grown accustomed to. The reputation of the NHL has been shattered and replaced with the ugly stain of greed, at least momentarily. Players wanted more, owners wanted more, no one was happy.
The puck, however, will once again drop despite these deficiencies in the season. They have settled their differences and are ready to please the fans once again. As fans, we are left with difficult decisions of weighing the pros and cons of accepting the NHL’s return with hospitable arms, or shielding our eyes from the T.V. screen as the goalie makes an incredible save.
In a perfect world, the NHL will be given a punishment for its lack of respect toward fans, holding out on delivering for an exhausting 113 days. That reprimand could come in the form of a boycott, with fans abstaining from watching or going to Montreal Canadiens games. This would surely demonstrate that we will not accept this intolerable behaviour again.
Or perhaps we should look at ourselves. We, the fans, value hockey to an extent that makes it possible for those involved to fight over how to structure the distribution of millions in revenue.
Regardless, the Habs will be back on the ice. No matter where you are on the spectrum of acceptance or rejection of the NHL, those who accept the game again, may be the prevailing winners in this scenario. However, if one is hoping to reject the return of hockey, the overwhelming embrace made by those who will accept the game again with the same amount of love, may be all it takes to bump that fan back to a howling fanatic.
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Hockey is in Canada’s blood
by George Menexis
Our schedule as Canadians has been seriously compromised. After summer passes there isn’t much to be excited about. Students grudgingly go back to school and a definite routine kicks in. The only thing to look forward to is the new hockey season that usually kicks off in the beginning of October. Coming home from a hard day’s work, usually with a few intense shovelling sessions in between, to kick off your shoes and enjoy our great national pastime.
This year, however, we were cheated, lied to and most importantly, we were disappointed. Will there be a lower demand for hockey as a result?
The answer is simply no. Never. No matter what.
All over Canada, fans are gearing up for the short season. Sure, there were some mild complaints, but did we really expect Canadians to leave hockey behind? On Sunday, nearly 5,000 fans showed up to a Winnipeg practice. Toronto and Ottawa will also be offering open practice sessions in the week before the season begins in hopes of getting fans excited for that infamous first game of the season. Stories about the lockout have been dominating the front pages of Canadian newspapers ever since the lockout ended Jan. 12.
This is Canada. This isn’t Miami or Los Angeles, where fans can enjoy a vast array of professional sports while sipping tequila by the beach, going to watch an occasional hockey game for $20 as mere entertainment. Hockey is essential to Canadian culture. We live it and we breath it in everything we do, whether we like it or not. It’s played in our backyards every day and every Canadian child grows up with the dream of one day being a hockey player. That’s Canada folks and absence has only made the heart grow fonder.
Phrases like “enough is enough,” “the NHL is getting ridiculous” and “I don’t know if I’ll even watch this year,” that have been heard on our newscasts these past few days create mixed feelings among fans. That, however, isn’t the reality. In reality, bars are hiring once again and filling their stock to the max, liquidations on hockey gear are officially terminated and we’re all planning in the back of our minds, where we’re going to gather and watch the first game of the season.
As American markets are preparing for the worst, offering half price season tickets or finding other innovative ways to get fans reeling mid-season, Canadian markets are sticking to the usual plan of sitting back and watching the dollars reel in from their incomparable fans. This is the truth, the sad reality. Hockey is Canada’s emblem and will be so after the next lockout as well.