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Vulgar Opinions: Random Thoughts About The Lockout

09/10/12
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There is no connection between any of these.  Enjoy.

I think that the NHL has long figured out that it will always be a niche, or diehard sport driven by diehard fans.  I also think the NHL knows that because of that, they stand to lose little in terms of support if they lockout again.  Thus I don’t think either side is trying very hard at all.

I think a lot of us deserve this, fans and media, for not being more vocal about things that are wrong with the sport.  For years the media gave concussions a free pass, basing many of their storylines around iron individuals who can play through anything.  While this is admirable to an extent, there is a line where it becomes stupid, and the media was negligent in failing to designate one until Colby Armstrong thought it was a good idea to hide a concussion.

I think a lot of us deserve this, fans and media, for not being more vocal about things that are wrong with the sport Part II.  For the past few years we’ve seen a decline to pre-lockout (the first one!) play and said relatively little, other than blaming things (goalie pads) that aren’t the main problem.  No, players aren’t adapting to less lenient officiating, the officials aren’t calling anything.  How many times have you seen a forward get pinned to the boards after a dump in 1-2 seconds after the puck leaves his stick?  What’s the problem here, magnets?  Call interference so the defensemen have to play actual defense.  I think this very small change would lead to more offensive zone time overall, and noticeably more goals.

If the NHL cared more about having a strong European presence in the sport (that the NHL’s first ever European ref started in 2009 (!) is pathetic) there would be a stronger push to avoid a lockout.  The NHL is still the top shelf, but more and more Europeans are going to say, “you know what, I’m going to stay over here,” as a result of frequent labor stoppages, and the NHL only loses when that happens.  But I don’t think they care as much about those players.  The best North Americans will almost always choose the NHL, they know this.

Teams with a lot of European talent, especially young European talent that isn’t tied to an NHL deal or hasn’t found a home in North America should be pissed as they stand to lose a lot.  Teams that have aging stars should also be pissed as their bodies will endure an extra year of wear and tear with little benefit.

I’m curious as to what a lockout of any length could do to scheduling.  I want to see the Sabres play in San Jose and I’ll be pissed if I have to wait several years for that to happen.

Unfortunately those that say the fans have little they can do are right.  Boycotting the sport ends with no winners.

A lot of this is catalyzed by a sport that doesn’t know what it wants to be and/or won’t admit its shortcomings.  Numerous failures, such as two hockey teams in Florida, and the Atlanta and Phoenix franchises are good evidence of this.  The NHL wants to push into some non-traditional markets to be a national sport and that’s fine, but they stopped there instead of doing things that would help its brand in the long run, like investing in roller hockey in the south where ice is at a premium, and paying ESPN whatever it would take to get pimped heavily on their network.

If it were up to me, I’d risk offending some of the die-hard good old boys in favor of playing to more casual fans.  All those old NFL fans complaining about the disappearance of the running game decades ago look pretty stupid now.  I think you can do this without changing what the sport is at its core.  (Seriously, let’s shut up about inventing penalties (shot blocking) and goofy power play rules.)

A lockout of any length will make the NHL look like (more of) the garage league it already is.  The NFL got their shit done last year and there are fare more dollars flying around.  People were excited then about what no football could mean for hockey.  Now we get to watch the opposite.  Awesome.

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