Next year is going to be what scientists like to call a king-hell bitch. And cold, too.
- Ray Ratto
The National Hockey League has a lot of work to do if they ever hope to become anything resembling a major sport in this country. So, what do the Lords of the Game have up their sleeves? Yep, you guessed- a lockout. You've got to love the rationale at work here: Let's pay outrageous salaries to middling talents, and then when the Collective Bargaining Agreement comes up for renegotiation, we'll plead poverty and blame the players for our own fiscal mismanagement and irresponsibility? Hey, it worked for baseball, eh?
The news that NHL owners have decided they can do better financially by not playing games next year comes as no surprise to anyone who understands the bloodsport that is the upcoming lockout.
In fact, this next year figures to be every bit as ugly as the Todd Bertuzzi incident, if only because its damage will be felt long after Steve Moore heals.
But as Eric Idle said as he was being crucified at the end of "Monty Python's Life Of Brian," "Always look on the bright side of life."
The bright side? Easy. This will almost surely be the best Stanley Cup Playoffs ever.
It will have to be, if the players have even one-fifth the pride they say they do. This could be their last hockey for years, if some of the older and scalier owners get their way.
I've always loved the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the passion, the drama, and the full-tilt, balls-to-the-wall display of big time hockey. Fighting drops dramatically. Hey, the games actually mean something, and no one wants to take a stupid penalty that may cost their team.
To say these playoffs will be played under a cloud would be something of an understatement. We could well be witnessing the death rattle of the NHL. Anyone who has been paying any attention at all knows that next year is as good as gone- unless one side blinks. It would not be a wise move to bet on that happening. At least Houston has an AHL team, and that league has, for now, promised to be playing next year. I have no problem rooting for the Aeros, but minor league hockey is, well, minor league hockey.
The NHL began as a regional league, wildly popular in Canada and in the Northeastern US. If the lockout occurs, and it appears to be a mortal lock at this point in time, the NHL may well have it's work cut out just to get back to that point. The "Original Six"? Gary Bettman may have to consider himself fortunate if that many teams remain after a lockout.
The owners are in whatever financial straits they find themselves in largely because of their own fiscal irresponsibility. Did they really think that middling talents would reject ridiculously high salary offers out of a sense of duty to the game? Get real...these fools have built their own house, and now they want to blame the players for the fact the the house was built with no foundation. It's true; a fool and his money are soon parted. In this case, though, we may all wind up suffering.