It is about this time every year that NHL teams across the country open up training camp in preparation for the start of the regular season.
It is a joyous time for any hockey fan because it means the bodies will soon be smashing, the pucks will soon be flying and the players will soon hit the ice to begin their quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup.
But this year, training camp has been pushed back. The preseason games where up-and-coming stars get the chance to test their mettle have been canceled and the regular season looks like it might be in jeopardy once again due to a lockout. And all of this because the players and the owners cannot agree on a few points and come to an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement.
It is hard for me to wrap my head around the reasons behind this lockout. Both sides seem to be solely focused on themselves and not on what really matters: the fans and the game.
First off, the fans should be the leagues main concern in everything they do, because if there are no fans, there is no NHL. The league lost a good chunk of fans after the last lockout erased a whole season of hockey back in the early 2000s.
Now, just as fans were finally starting to flock back to the arenas and starting to watch more and more games on TV, another lockout hits the NHL. All because the owners and the players are worrying about where the money is going and who can get the most out of a new agreement.
That kind of thinking will get the league nowhere with the fans who are already unable to go to games due to increases in ticket prices or casual viewers who will not be able to see any games if this lockout continues.
How is this thinking going to bring more fans to a game that has yet to become as main stream as basketball, football or baseball?
In short, it won’t.
The NHL needs to appeal more to the casual fan and make it easier for them to enjoy the game like the die-hard lovers of hockey do. Those die-hards may never lose hope on the NHL, but that won’t go a long way to expanding the appeal of the game to sports fans across the country.
However, as important as the fans are to the game, the NHL seems to be losing sight of what makes hockey such a great sport: the game itself.
I am sick of professional sports continually becoming more and more about how much money can be made rather than playing and enjoying the game.
There are very few people who can go to work every day and play a sport they love. So, I fail to see why the money even matters.
I understand that a person needs to make money to support themselves and their families, but at the same time, it isn’t like the minimum salary a player can make (in any sport) isn’t more than enough to get a normal family through a year without too much to worry about.
I’m not saying that every player is like this or that it is even a majority of the players, but obviously somewhere along the line, money has become way more important to the game than the 60 minutes between the start and finish that the players are on the ice.
I also understand that this lockout is about more than just the money, but in the end isn’t it always about the money? There are probably some other issues that I don’t quite understand as an outsider looking in, but if a fan like me cannot grasp what the holdup is, then how can the casual fans?
In the end, all I am trying to say is that the NHL needs to get its act together and figure out a way to avoid losing another season to arguing and bickering.
I for one will not be happy if another NHL season is flushed away just when I was starting to get excited that the Minnesota Wild might be able to finally turn things around and make a deep run at the Stanley Cup. And I’m sure there are thousands of other fans out there who agree with me.
I need my hockey and I need it sooner rather than later.