While I’m not one to stray away from my beloved pigskin, on this NFL Wednesday I feel I have to bring attention to something equally as near and dear to my sports-loving heart: hockey.
I noticed a hash tag on Twitter #WhatsHockey used in conjunction with #FootballIsBack and #HappyNFLWednesday. NFL fans, why ya gotta pick on the little guy, huh? Pick on baseball, not hockey. Hockey isn’t even relevant enough to be picked on. You know how I know? Because the lockout of NFL referees has nabbed more airtime than the fact that the NHL is facing a full-fledged player lockout in 10 days. Yes, you read right. The current CBA is set to expire September 15 and word is that a new one is not even close to being agreed upon. Show of hands who actually knew about this already.
This lack of coverage has absolutely solidified the NHL as the redheaded step-child — no that’s being too generous — the bastard child of the four major sports. That’s better. If there was ever a doubt where this sport stood on ESPN’s priority list, there isn’t now. But how could the networks take it seriously when the NHL doesn’t take itself seriously? Only four NHL owners have actually been a part of CBA negotiations. FOUR. Out of THIRTY teams. And one of them is from Calgary, so you know that cancels out . . . being Canadian and all. Can you imagine that discussion?
NHL Owner #1: We are shifting 14% of the total revenue from the players to the owners.
Player #1: WHAT?! I’m sorry, are you the ones getting cross-checked while going 20 miles per hour on tiny metal stilts for 82 games every season? Dude, you can’t do this to us! Canada? Say something!
Calgary Owner: Uh, I . . . well. Dontcha know . . . the thing is — agh, I DON’T LIKE CONFLICT, eh!
After labor negotiations recessed this past Friday, both sides have confirmed that the NHL and NHLPA have not scheduled any further talks before the expiration of the CBA at which time the league plans to lock players out.
It seems so imminent that foreign leagues are clawing at each other, trying to call dibs on our best players. The team president of the KHL’s Dynamo Moscow is going so far as to say they have a “moral right” to the Washington Capitals’ Alexander Ovechkin. Other than Ovechkin not having a moral bone in his body, this is the kind of foreign justification we are subjecting our players to. OUR players.
Which brings me to another point, while I am appalled at the lack of coverage and information being volunteered about this travesty, I’m even more appalled at the fact that hockey fans are silent. How is it that come game night at the United Center, Chicago Blackhawks fans can’t even shut up for the National Anthem, yet now that the Hawks may not even have a season, all I hear are crickets?
I’m truly disgusted that we are just standing idly by in the face of a repeat of the 2004-2005 lockout. That was devastating to the league. When the NFL was locked out, that’s all that was on SportsCenter. When the NBA had to miss part of the season last year, you had fans demanding it be reinstated. Where is the loyalty? I know I can’t be the only hockey fan in cyberspace. Wake up people! Put some pressure on these guys. I want to see my Blackhawks this season. I want to lose my voice before the game even begins by screaming during the National Anthem. I refuse to let my jersey collect mothballs in the closet this season. Let’s let everyone know that we believe in the NHL.