Now that’s a bit of hyperbole, this is only the second time in a decade this has happened. NHL owners locked out players in the 2004-2005 season. This happened to be the year after my favorite team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, won the Stanley Cup. Salary caps and expiring contracts pretty much ensured the team would not repeat this feat. Thank you NHL for nothing.
I write this as a frustrated fan. As odd as it seems, I’ve found a thriving community of hockey fans in Marshall County. Whoda thunkit? Our office manager Emily McGill is about as rabid of a fan as I am. Then there are others. You know who you are.
My wife is a new hockey fan. She got into the sport with me. I announced I was going to the one restaurant in Paducah that shows Tampa games at the start of last season. Grudgingly, she came along. She learned the game and was really looking forward to this season. She’s probably as big of a fan as I am. Again, thank you NHL for dashing the hopes of a new, and decidedly non-traditional fan. The league’s getting really good at crushing expectations.
The NHL Players’ Association is the players’ union. They made a gesture toward owners in good faith. They offered to start the season under the expired collective bargaining agreement. This was the agreement they made with owners after the last lockout cancelled an entire season.
Only the owners didn’t like it. They let their own agreement expire and so far, only the preseason has been cancelled. The mid-October season launch is in real danger.
These are the same owners who went on a mid-summer spending spree. One team broke the piggy-bank spending about $30 million on just two players. Now they are saying they are going broke just putting a team on the ice. How do you spend big money and say you’re going broke? It’s like buying a Ferrari and going on food stamps.
It sounds like I’m blaming owners. I blame the players, too. League minimum for players is something like $600,000. A true superstar makes probably 10 to 20 times that amount. I don’t know about you, but I think I could live quite comfortably on $600,000. Even if my career lasted 3 to 4 years, I’d probably have more than enough to retire, raise a family and have a pretty comfortable life. How do you get $10 million and look at your boss and ask for more?
It spits in the face of the fan. You know, the little guy who is working just to get by and put food on the table. We’re the ones who watch the games on TV, buy shirts and oh yeah, sit in the arenas. It sort of speaks to the national disconnect between the one percent and the rest of us. Millionaire players and billionaire owners who want more, and are depriving us of our sport.
Then there’s the other bunch hurt by a lockout. I’m talking about beer vendors, the workers in the souvenir shop, ushers, security and the parking lot attendants. The people who answer the phones. The people who sell the tickets. These poor souls do not have millions in the bank and are probably living paycheck to paycheck. How do owners and players look them in the eye and say, “This is in the best interest of the sport?”
Tell that to a parent who needs a six-game home stretch to afford the copayment at the pediatrician’s office.