If you include Texas and Florida there are as many hockey teams in the old Southern Confederacy as there are in all of Canada. That is the NHL’s elemental problem. It tried to take a Canadian/Northeastern/Upper Midwestern regional sport and turn it into a national American sport. While the NHL was immolating Texas Hold ‘Em poker, which I love to play but do not care to watch, and NASCAR, which is the large circle of hell that surrounds all of the other circles, have become more popular by sticking to their regional roots and growing from there. The NHL tried to transplant its product into hostile ground; it shriveled and died.
Hockey can never be a sensationally popular sport in the way that American football, baseball and especially basketball are. Those three sports (along with NASCAR and poker) can be marketed around stars. Any bad basketball game will still produce enough dunks and three pointers to fill an ESPN segment. Baseball is all about individual statistics. Football is a team game, but only a few players truly get the glory. Even a hockey player who scores 60 goals will be shut out in at least a quarter of the games. When the Bulls sucked you could still count on MJ to always drop in 38 points and do something memorable. Our 60 goal scorer could be pointless, yet a true hockey fan could still see that he had a great game. Recognizing this requires an appreciation for the sport that cannot be replicated by one fluke playoff run (Florida, Carolina…). It cannot be marketed, it can only happen organically (as they say in the magazine biz); it is something that a person has to come to, like being able to sense a tell in poker or savoring whatever it is about NASCAR that so many enjoy (perhaps they are high on the leaded fumes).
This lockout was never about any issues that are germane to other labor/management disputes. Unless MC Hammer was managing their money the players were not in any danger of poverty. The owners needed the players for a league, but they were all plutocrats to begin with: they did not need a hockey league to make money. The villains in this fight were teams like the Wings, Leafs, Avalanche and especially the Ranger$ who attempted to spend their way to prosperity Yankees style and inflated the salary of stars and piece-of-the-puzzle players like Bobby “Greedy Republican” Holik. This sent smaller market teams into competitive oblivion and made it necessary for them to compensate for the talent gap by relying on defensive systems.
The final resolution of the lock out is fantastic. The spendthrift teams that ruined it for everyone else are being punished, the Edmontons of the league will finally be able to keep the talent that they cultivate, and the players can “only” make a maximum of $7.8 million for playing a game – boo fucking hoo for them! Excuse my working Joe pride, but I’m only being paid about 40K to keep the juice flowing in a cost-effective and environmentally conscious manner thereby creating the conditions necessary for countless private fortunes. Jeremy Roenick can floss his teeth with my ass hairs as far as I’m concerned.
The glorious thing about hockey is that a team of hustle will beat a lazy team of talent, as the Rag$ always proved. This is contrary to the other, more popular sports. If these casual fans don’t care for that then fuck ‘em. Who needs them? Let Florida, Nashville, and Carolina fold or be relocated to Winnipeg, Hamilton and Quebec where they belong. So long as the arenas are more or less full and I can get the Devils on satellite TV 82 times a year I am more than happy without the ad dollars of these emerging markets. The infantile, foolish Avs fans are annoying enough as it is.