League Or Cult?
The NHL is behaving like a death cult run by manic depressives.
After setting records in attendance and television ratings, NHL Scavenger Gary Bettman, issued an official dictum stating that sans a new deal between the league and the NHLPA, lights in arenas across North America will remain off. A commercial during the previous work stoppage depicted a vacant rink, with the red line slowly bleeding into the rest of the ice, like a creeping wound. These images are becoming relevant again.
Scavenging for new markets in states where ice only exists in grocery stores, along with owners willing to offer vast kingdoms to marginal players, are both leading us to a very similar situation to the one we experienced eight years ago.
So, while the league heard loud and clear the demands for a more exciting product, they seem to have neglected the more critical issue of sound decision making. The result: A rapidly approaching, NHL-less autumn.
Possessing neither a background nor an interest in the stupid financial world, my criticism of league business practices has to remain distant and general. But force feeding a sport on people on the west coast and in the south, a sport many people in these areas are scarcely aware of, clearly has not worked out the way these ambitious fat cats hoped it would. How do I know this? Well, do the Atlanta Thrashers exist anymore? No. Is the ownership situation in Phoenix on sturdy ground? No. Were the LA Kings a thriving franchise before last seasons Stanley Cup Championship? No.
Hockey is not just a business. It’s a culture as well. Many have forgotten this, or simply never cared to understand it.
A lust for new markets, in my view, could be the fatal blow to the NHL.
Now, I tend to side with players during labor disputes. As highly paid as players are, an athlete must acquire what he can, while he can for two main reasons. First, career threatening injuries can happen anytime, anywhere. Two, professional athletes generally have marketable skills that are limited to......take a guess......athleticism. The road to financial ruin is much shorter for an athlete than an owner. An owner can lose 400 million dollars, and still have enough money to support thousands of his descendants for generations.
Having said all that, it should be obvious to any fair minded observer, that the difference between a contract for Zach Parise and a contract for Sidney Crosby, should not be four million dollars. Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are fine players, and I wish I had them on my team. But for 98 million apiece? Please.
The NHL has succeeded in improving the game by tinkering the rules. Having marketed some of the most electrifying players in the game effectively has been laudable as well. But all of that is now on the verge of becoming irrelevant, with financial lunacy threatening to send fans into a fall season where highlights from years past will have to quench our thirst for on ice magic.
I adequately prepared myself for the 2004-2005 work stoppage. I am not adequately prepared for this one.
A bipolar person will oscillate between constructive and destructive behavior minute by minute, and often at the same time. A death cult destroys itself when it feels it has reached a state of nirvana.
Taking a look at what the league has done, this comparison is not as funny as I would like it to be.
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