I used to love the NHL, back when I was a wide-eyed, naive little boy. I fell for its charm and looks, not really caring about what was really under the surface. I’m no longer as wide-eyed, and a little less naive now. And I can’t say I have any love left for the NHL.
The relationship is now one of convenience. The NHL provides me the sport I am so passionate about, while I provide the NHL with a warm body in the seats, spending what little money I have on overpriced tickets and concessions.
How could I love a league who so callously treats their fanbase? A league that has had four work stoppages in the past 20 years (people tend to forget the two-week strike in 1992), never once thinking about how it would affect the fans. In that same period there have been only four work stoppages in the other three major sports, with only three of them affecting the season. Yet the NHL saw fit to match their collective number and leave the fans out in the cold.
How could I love a league who so selfishly cancelled an entire season because the owners and players couldn’t play nice with each other? It was the first professional sports league in U.S. history to cancel an entire season. Is that a league who shows its gratitude to the millions of fans who flock to their arenas every year?
They admit that they need us. The players give the old "And most of all, we’d like to thank the fans…" line, but is this the thanks we get? Players playing hockey for other fans, fans abroad, instead of the fans who are sitting at home wearing their jerseys. The owners drop the whole "If it wasn’t for the fans…" rhetoric, but what about the fans now? If it wasn’t for the fans, then how about you get the key and go unlock the arena doors for us?
Again with the NHL, it’s about the almighty dollar. So am I supposed to love a league that doesn’t seem to love the sport of hockey as much as I do? Because if they loved it so much, they’d come to an agreement and end this work stoppage, instead of holding tightly to demands so ridiculous that neither side is even close to shaking hands on a deal.
I understand they’re looking out for #1, trying to make sure they’re future is bright. But when I go to the liquor store, I buy the Smirnoff vodka instead of the Stoli I so desire because it's half the price. I can manage to make compromise in my life, why can't the NHL? Can I seriously be expected to empathize with players and owners making millions upon millions of dollars annually squabbling over who will make a few more million?
Even if there are owners who are losing money, they still have millions and millions of dollars. When they need to sell their brand new Lexus and buy a four-year-old Nissan because things are tight, maybe then I’ll start listening. But for now, the whole thing is really a slap in the face to me as a fan.
The NHL and NHLPA can take their sweet time and hold out for the outrageous, because the NHL isn’t going to fold. Eventually the NHL will end this lockout and once again fans will flock to the arenas. I will be one of them. Because while I have no love for the NHL, I still love the Islanders.
So I’ll endure their ticket price hiking and concession stand inflation. I’ll deal with the lack of national media and television coverage and the lack of respect that goes along with it. And I’ll continue to be loyal to the NHL, no matter how little they care about me as a fan.
Because while I have no love for the NHL, I will forever love hockey. And the NHL knows it.