the day that hockey died…

So, today is officially the day that the NHL cancelled the 2004-2005 season. For those of you not keeping score, the NHL has been in a contract dispute with its players since Sept 16.
What was the big deal? Money, of course. The owners claim that they have priced themselves out of the market. In the last few years they have let salaries get out of hand to the point that the teams are losing money. The players liked making money, and they weren’t exactly dying to give it up. The players refused to give into a salary cap, until yesterday that is.
Yesterday, the NHLPA decided to propose a salary cap to the NHL, one that was much much higher than what the owners wanted. Many players, who had stood by the ‘no cap’ mantra, were confused why their reps caved. They’ve sat out for five months. If they knew there was a chance the PA would cave, then why didn’t they just work a deal last summer? The concessions made at the last minute by both sides, however, were more about saving face than any true desire to resolve things.
The really sad part of all this is that no one cared. The first time the shutout has been mentioned on any of the major news sites was late yesterday and today, when the season was on the brink of being cancelled. At that point, the press coverage was only there to cover the carnage, much like a major car accident.
Where’s the outrage of the fans? The NHL was just beginning to stir interest in American households. With the shutout, most people, not having sympathy for the wealthy players and the even wealthier owners, simply moved on. You probably remember the amount of coverage that the last baseball strike got, and that sport barely recovered from it. And, baseball, after all, is ‘America’s pastime,’ with mom and apple pie. So, what do you do with a sport that’s not even in the top 5? Imagine the outrage of fans if the NFL or the NBA or MLB tried cancelling their seasons.
It’s not that hockey isn’t a great sport. it’s an incredibly fast paced sport, and to me it’s probably the most fun to watch. It’s the only sport I’ve ever watched where a 0-0 game will keep you on the edge of your seat. It’s the only sport where you are just as elated as the players are after your team scores the winning goal in triple overtime to win the Stanley Cup. You and your friends stayed up till 2 a.m., watching every minute of the game.
You don’t get that with football. The NBA isn’t really fun to watch until the fourth quarter. And baseball? Man, if you don’t have a serious buzz going by the seventh inning stretch, I don’t know how you’d get through the rest of the game. God forbid watching 9 or more innings completely sober. And Nascar? Oh come on. Unless there’s a crash, how exciting is it to watch 40 cars run 500 laps around a track on TV?
No one wants to take salary cuts, but if the choice is taking a pay cut or risk having the company shut it doors, then the cut isn’t so bad. The company I work for has done it. I think Delta just asked its employees to take cuts in order to try salvage their company. So, why should a sports franchise be any different? I read a story about the support staff of the Stars, including the coaches, had to take major cuts during the lockout. So, why not the players?
A lot of players are going to play in Europe or in the minor leagues. They’re certainly not getting paid up to $10 million a year to play in these other leagues, so why not swallow their pride, take the cuts, and keep the NHL alive? The players say they just want to play the game that they love playing.
If you players really just wanted to play the game, then why should the money matter?

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