« Ryan McDonagh Signs in KHL | Main | NHL Makes Promising Proposal in Effort to Save Season »

Monday, October 15, 2012

The League's Destruction of the Sport of Hockey

Posted at 08:00 AM

In order to understand the magnitude of the NHL lockout, all you have to do is take a look at the other notable lockout that took place at the beginning of fall. Remember back when the NFL referees were locked out? Of course you do. It was not very long ago, and the headlines were so large they were
nearly impossible to miss. If you did not know the difference between a touchdown and a touch-back, you knew the NFL officials were locked out, and that the lockout was absolutely destroying the integrity of the sport of football.

Ravens vs. Patriots – that field goal to end the game was good? Isn’t the point to a field goal attempt to put the football between the uprights?

Packers vs. Seahawks? To this day, there is no consensus among the officials working that game as to whether or not the game’s final play was actually a touchdown.

What we do know about the lockout of NFL officials was the following:

A: While the integrity of NFL games was clearly an issue during the officiating lockout, the league’s bottom line was not harmed in any way. Tickets were sold, new Nike merchandise flew off the shelves, and – if anything – ratings increased … simply because many people tuned in to watch the games in order to see what would happen next regarding the officials.

B: People cared about the NFL officiating lockout. Heck, even President Obama chimed in on the officiating situation, and Sports Illustrated made the situation into a cover story. While the NFL officiating lockout did not displace a single down of football, the situation created national headlines because of incredibly substandard officiating that impacted the sport enormously. The drama came to a head after the Green Bay-Seattle Monday Night debacle, and
essentially reached the point where the league could not continue operation for one more down with replacement officials … so compromise was made … even though the NFL probably would not have lost a penny had the league stuck with replacement officials. In other words, the sport
was being harmed in such a way that the league found a way to make a deal.

C: When everything came to a head, moments after the Seattle Seahawks defeated the Green Bay Packers only a few weeks ago, compromise was made because the sport of football
needed compromise. The agreement did not come because the league wanted to make concessions, compromise was achieve because the sport mandated a deal … and NFL fans everywhere are eternally grateful.

In other words, the NFL officiating lockout was everything that the NHL player lockout is not. The NFL lockout created a national buzz greater than that which is being achieved by our upcoming Presidential election because the NFL is so important to our American culture that playing
professional football with replacement officials is an unacceptable concept. The standard achieved by the National Football League is on such a pedestal that fans cannot accept anything but the best officials, and despite the fact that not one down was missed due to this lockout, the sport itself dictated that the league make a deal. Ultimately, devotion to the sport of football
overruled the business desires of the league, and the games are back to where they used to be.

In professional hockey, on the other hand, we have the polar opposite. Is there national outcry over the cancellation of pre-season and the first part of the regular season while negotiations go absolutely nowhere? Not in this particular nation. Have President Obama or Governor Romney chimed in with an opinion in effort to steer hockey-loving voters their way? Nope. Have the
newspapers and magazines made this lockout headline news? Negative. Why? Because, unlike professional football, professional ice hockey is not important on a mainstream level for most people to care. If the NHL were to announce tomorrow that they will cease to operate forever, the number of people who will show any emotion towards this news will amount to essentially a small niche of hard-core fans. The rest of the public will move on to something else.

This conclusion is a tough pill to swallow, but it is also a fact. The worst part is that it doesn’t have to be this way. While the National Hockey League has never been in a state as weak as that which exists today, the sport of hockey itself is quite strong. Recent major hockey events have revealed a trend that the sport of hockey was – before the current lockout – getting more popular, and gaining a stronger hold in mainstream sports culture. The last Winter Olympics, the success of the Winter Classic, and drama of the Stanley Cup playoffs during the last few years, along with higher ratings and revenues and ticket sales, have proven that people seem to really enjoy the sport of ice hockey. In addition, interest in college hockey is also at an all-time high. Basically, if it is ice hockey being played at a high level, people are interested.

Unfortunately, it is the NHL that seems to be turning off the viewers.

Where the football lockout saw the league and the sport come together for the common good, the hockey lockout is profoundly featuring a situation where the league that oversees hockey in the United States is absolutely killing the sport. Through immaturity, greed, selfishness, and pure arrogance, everybody involved with the NHL lockout
is finishing the job that began in 2004, when the NHL almost permanently buried itself by losing an entire season for the same reasons. The league of professional ice hockey is essentially falling victim to its own arrogance, and in the process, erasing itself from many areas of the public culture -- doing everything it can to kill the sport in the process.

In other words, if the NFL’s officiating lockout was essentially a national crisis even though the show went on and all games were played, what does the lack of fanfare regarding the NHL lockout – which has seen games cancelled – say about the league overseeing professional hockey? Essentially, it is a major, bold, loud, screaming statement that the NHL is not important enough to have a lockout.

Whether you fall on ‘Team Gary’ or ‘Team Donald’, the one thing you have to agree on is that nobody representing the league is acting on behalf of the best interest of the sport, and that the results could become a disaster if this lockout is not solved quickly. Will the league disappear if,
say, we lose the entire 2012-13 season? Of course not. But, if the NHL never sees the ice this season, will the league ever be able to compete with other professional sports leagues that have achieved a higher level of success? Probably not. If the mainstream public essentially does not care when hockey is missing during hockey season, why is it going to care when hockey returns?

The problem here is that the sport of hockey deserves better. There is nothing like a hockey game when it comes to sports. There is an element of speed, teamwork, ruggedness, violence, and action that come together with an element of grace and beauty that makes quality ice hockey an art-form of sorts … poetry in motion, if you will. Can the NFL replicate the combination of beauty and skill
produced by an odd-man rush that is successfully converted? Can Major League Baseball produce the kind of excitement we experience when a goaltender is pulled for an extra attacker during the final 90 seconds of play? How about basketball? Is there any aspect of an NBA game that comes close to being as exciting and entertaining as what we see during every single hockey game? Of course not. Yet still, the NBA, NFL, and MLB would put millions of people
in a state of panic if their operations shut down, while the NHL’s lockout is barely noticed, except by hard-core fans of the league.

At the end of the day, the message to the NHL is a simple one: The sport of hockey is the
greatest sport in the world, but the league known as the NHL is not good enough, not important enough, and simply not a big enough part of our culture to lose another day to a lockout. This is not a player or an owner or a commissioner issue. It is an issue of the greatness of a sport compared to the status of a league.

For everything that is great and right about the sport of hockey, there is everything terrible and wrong about the way the league known as the NHL conducts itself. And this time, if an entire season is lost, it is a very relevant question to ask whether or not this league can survive the damage.


comments powered by Disqus

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Post a comment


Popular Posts on Rangers Tribune