Word is out that the NHL lockout is over and we can look forward to major league hockey returning to action in a matter of days. My love for hockey has grown gradually over many years... it doesn't stem from actually playing hockey or even watching it as a child. I still can't skate worth a damn and I was all about Star Trek growing up! However, I've since come to really enjoy the sport that so many of us draw at least part of our national identity from. Through family allegiances and a brief understanding of NHL history, my allegiance now sits with the venerable New York Rangers, but I have a great appreciation for most of the Canadian teams (not Ottawa, sorry Jamie) and many others.
So, like most NHL fans, I've been rotting away inside as the days of the lockout have ticked on. Now that it's over, I'm overjoyed. Not everyone is, though! TSN did an impromptu poll the day the lockout ended and found that nearly 3 in 4 respondents intended to "punish" the league with their purchasing decisions for how long the lockout took to resolve.
I understand the anger, I really do. It's easy to look at the whole situation and think "why are you arguing? You're all LOADED already! Who cares who makes how many extra millions on top?!" ... for those of us barely getting by in a down economy, it's easy to get upset about a dynamic like that. But do the players and even the league REALLY deserve that hatred?
Let's try to put it in perspective, a little.
First of all, if you starve yourself of the hockey you'd otherwise want to watch, you're hurting yourself more than you're hurting them. You've already been hurt, for months, by being unable to cheer on your favourite team and watch the best players in the world play the game we all love. And THEY (the league and the players) are ALREADY hurting - a lot. They missed 30+ games, so all of that TV revenue, ticket sales, etc., all that is lost to them already.
The hurt's going to continue for them too - people will still line up for years to get Leafs tickets but where they're REALLY going to hurt is in the less-successful markets; where the people who were only fairweather fans of their teams at best have completely forgotten about NHL hockey. So if you're seeking to punish the league, they've already been punished.
Second, if you're boycotting the league because you think NHL hockey isn't as good as it used to be, then I don't disagree with your assessment, but what does the lockout have to do with it? Why did you watch or support the NHL at all before the lockout, if you really don't care for the game they play? If your issue is with the quality of play; that quality has not likely been worsened (in the long term, at least) by these labour negotiations.
Finally, if you're mad at the millionaires and billionaires for being greedy, just remember, Gary Bettman and Don Fehr are paid to be greedy. If they failed to be greedy enough, they'd be fired and replaced with someone greedier. As for the players, what hockey-loving kid doesn't dream of growing up to play in the NHL, win the Stanley Cup, and go to sleep in a bed full of money? The players are the best in the world; they deserve to be well compensated. Not to mention the agreement they eventually reached has put considerable limits on the ridiculously huge, long, imbalanced contracts that were starting to make the league look silly. Meanwhile, the owners may not be the best in the world at anything but welcome to free-wheeling capitalism. If they didn't build the game into the money-making empire it is today, someone else would have.
Hockey's a great game, and people love watching the best hockey players in the world compete, and people are clearly willing to pay a LOT of money for that. Supply and demand. So there's a LOT of money involved. Remember though that nobody set out on either side of this negotiation to ruin YOUR life. Neither side maliciously worked to make this any worse for the fans. They all wanted it to be done as soon as you did, but they had to get their ducks in a row first. Now the ducks are in a row, the billionaires are happy, the millionaires are happy, and I'm happy. I hope you will be too, in time.
Next time this comes up, obviously, I hope we can get it done without a lockout. I appreciate, though, that the process of collective bargaining is extremely complex and can't be boiled down to 144 characters no matter how many times we've checked Twitter over the last several months. It goes back and forth, it's emotional, it's severely technical, and in my mind, it's totally understandable.
I'm glad it's all over, because it's been a hellish few months of tedium. At the same time, I'm also glad it's all over (again), because we were days away from it being much worse (cancelled season).
Go Rangers Go!