The ironic part of the players and owners at the current NHL lockout talks is that they’re fighting over money that does not exist. Not while there is no product to sell. It saddens me to see all the great tradition and storied history of the league left in the closet while this season looks more and more as though it will never see a puck dropped on the ice. While I am a football fan at heart, I know as well as anyone who watched hockey that there is nothing quite like it — a sport where there is constant action for minutes at a time, huge crushing hits that are somehow shaken off without hesitation and another action-packed game probably only a night or two away.
League leadership, though, does not seem to think that saving this season is much of a priority. It’s not hard to lock yourselves in a room and agree not to leave until a deal has been struck. Some versions of history say that happened with the writing of the United States Constitution, and that room was not even air-conditioned. Is there as much at stake here? Of course not, hockey is still just a game. But the failure to get a deal done is hurting more than just the league itself. It is also a pain for ESPN’s NHL writing staff who, with practically no league news to report, have been reduced to writing about this season as they simulate it in a video game. Ditto for NHL.com’s writers, who have also become masters of hilarious double-meaning headlines. A recent one was “We Have A Deal,” except they were referring to the Quebec Nordiques’ trade of Eric Lindros in 1992.
At least those writers have kept their jobs, though. Stadiums are big employers of part-time labor, jobs that are now unnecessary without games to sell concessions at or clean up after. Think of all the security personnel, ticket-punchers, greeters and ushers that all work hockey games. If your job used to be tossing white-out T-shirts into the throng moving into the stands, what do you do now? Hockey’s reach extends beyond stadium workers, too. You can bet that the area surrounding the arena is host to a plethora of sports bars that rely on fans to keep them in the black year to year.
I’m sure if those bar owners were included in the collective bargaining agreement talks there would be a new deal right quick.
What was once a rocking arena surrounded by packed little pubs with the game on every channel is now a cold, empty building surrounded by a desolate wasteland of empty parking spots and lonely bars stocked with way too much Labatt Blue. Even that is not the extent of the NHL’s reach. Think of all the sporting goods stores that carry hockey apparel, and how much less they will sell with no games to promote those $200 replica jerseys. Someplace like Dick’s Sporting Goods might be able to absorb that hit, but a smaller place might have half of its inventory devoted to hockey paraphernalia — and then what?
Hockey is also working hard to lose a generation of young players.
Who wants to play a sport at any level that is no longer played at the professional level?
Kids’ heroes are spending more time in boardrooms than against the boards, and that is surely making an impact on the game for the young ones. Like it or not, athletes are big role models.
And hockey-playing kids have now lost theirs. Fans are also losing interest in the NHL. Of course, with no season, I’d say they would be crazy not to.
With fewer fans to support them, when the NHL finally does send players back out onto that ice, there won’t be as many people watching.
Fewer hot dog-guzzling fans in the stands, fewer hoodlums crowding the bars across the street, fewer kids begging their parents for a new jersey, not as many fantasy hockey office pools — did those ever exist? — fewer visitors to NHL.com, and fewer dollars for the owners and players to fight over.
Garrett Cimina is a freshman majoring in finance and is The Daily Collegian’s Monday columnist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.