The Value Question

I’ve been thinking about what I am going to do with the NHL and hockey in general when the current lockout ends.  Will I be back?  Will I stay home and watch games?  What will my reaction be?  So far, I don’t know.  I just know how I feel now.  

I’m a hockey fan, through and through.  I love the sport, and now that I’m on an actual (low level rec league) team, I love playing it more and more.  I am less obsessed about it than I was five or six years ago, but it isn’t the lockout making that happen, that’s just life and moving on.  I don’t care about any other sport, just hockey.  

I know how I feel now.  I skip over most of the hockey blog posts in my RSS reader, because they say the same thing.  No news is no news.  People are mad, they aren’t shy of expressing it, and I don’t want to keep feeding my own anger and disappointment in the NHL any more than I already have.  

The lockout started on September 15th, with plenty of time before to watch the slow lurch towards nothing that we have now.  The only moments of joy we have seen from the process has been the rise to stardom of the NHL Podium (I think it has earned a proper name, don’t you?).  

And lets face it, that should be the point of being a hockey fan: the joy from watching the games, of being included in the celebrations, of the fun of the sport.  If you are in it for the anger, then this is your shining moment of glory.  I watch hockey for the fun and excitement, not to learn about salary caps and make whole and other business that may or may not be of consequence.  

I’m not ignorant to the fact that money makes the puck go in the net.  It always will, and there is little to be done about it.  Even at my pitiful level of play, money drives what you can and can not do.  My season, 22 games plus two guaranteed playoff games cost me $500.  That doesn’t include skate sharpening, any new equipment needed (a new helmet set me back $129, due to a slight concussion earned at stick and puck time (which is $10 a session)), and I might be taking a hockey 101 class which will set me back around $150.  Money drives hockey.  It isn’t the “pick up the skates and head down to the frozen pond” of the early last century.  Zombonis, freezing the ice, ice time, everything costs money, and is driven by it.  

The NHL is a business and it’s driven by money on a scale that I can’t really comprehend, but does not understanding, nor wanting to, make me a bad fan?  I like to be well informed, but I prefer my knowledge and information be about hockey, not capology (which is one letter added to apology) and contract issues.  And certainly not tabloid fodder like making phone calls on stacks of cash (which I thought was funny) or who is dating who or any of the slow news day TMZ garbage we see touted as a hockey story.  

Right now, the information is all about bad business decisions.  It isn’t about hockey.  It’s about who is more angry at the time, and who we should or should not be blaming.  Everything is geared away from the sport of hockey.  According to NHL.com, there were 894 players to take the ice in the NHL last season (and if this is wrong, please correct me in the comments).  There are more than 585,000 members of USA Hockey alone (who is happy to post it’s financials online, unlike certain for profit leagues we could mention).  But for some reason, I’m supposed to care and follow what’s happening in the NHL right now?

No thanks.  It’s just making me more bitter and sad.  It isn’t enhancing my life in the way that hockey should.  It isn’t making me happy in the way the sport can and should.  And it doesn’t feel like it’s adding any value to my life in the way actually playing hockey does.  The big question is, will it do so once the season starts again?  I don’t think I will know until then.

My hockey gear is lying on the floor waiting to go back in it’s bag after a hard skate the other day.  I got danced around by two young players who had wheels and skills, and I worked hard to keep up and get the few good plays in that I could.  I was invited onto a team for the summer that is three levels up from the one I am on now, which would destroy me (I’m 40, out of shape, and an ex-smoker).  It was flattering.  The hockey was hard but fun.  That’s the way it should be.  The value should be obvious.  This lockout doesn’t provide me any value.  

NHL Cliff

“Lines of communication remain open.”

That was the first thing I heard from my radio this morning.  Sound familiar, hockey fans?  Knowing my online life, you could assume that I was listening to sports radio, but no (in fact, for the record, I don’t listen to sports radio – not enough hockey).  This line came from NPR, and wasn’t referring to the NHL Lockout.  It was about the so-called Fiscal Cliff (or as I like to call it, the Financularity).

You would be forgiven for thinking it was about the ongoing “negotiations” and the slow creep towards the next CBA.  The two have plenty in common, and while the metaphors break down as soon as you get past the political party definitions, the reality is they share a lot of attributes.

  • Each side seems close, and agrees what should be done to resolve the issues.  Neither side wants to budge.  Movement will happen, but how much each side is willing to go is the question.
  • Both are totally solvable.  The details are what’s holding things up.
  • The issue more important to each side is who saves the most face.
  • Both sides demonize each other, which seems more important to them than actually resolving the issues at hand.
  • This only hurts the ones they propose to love, be it the fans or the American people.

Think of the last few months as the debt-ceiling crisis of last year.  While everyone bickered before the inevitable, faith was lost in the US and it’s leaders, which resulted in a downgrading of the United States’ credit rating.  Compare that to the faith being lost in the NHL by sponsors and fans (Molson – Coors and Boston Pizza don’t write public letters to the NHL expressing their concerns when things are going well).

Now we sit at the cliff.  With games cancelled until the end of the year, on or two more shuffle-steps towards the edge is all it’s going to take to shove this thing over.  Don’t be fooled.  As they said in Battlestar Galactica, “All of this has happened before, and it will all happen again.”

Stay frosty.

Imminent Road Trip

I’m looking to take a hockey road trip from January 1st to the 7th. Any suggestions? I’m starting in Denver, and probably heading east, but right now, I have no solid plans. I want to go places I haven’t been yet, so Omaha is on the radar. Where do I need to go?

Gary Bettman’s Original Media Update

In an amazing coincidence, Jerseys and Hockey Love has obtained a copy of the original speech Gary Bettman was going to address the media with, before opting for the shortened version delivered.  As a public service, we reprint it in it’s entirety. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, members of the media, Damien - 

The Board of Governors meeting has just concluded, and I wanted to make a brief statement about the negotiations between the owners and players that was held earlier.

As there was more progress and optimism generated in one meeting that excluded myself and Donald Fehr than in all the meetings attended by the two of us, I don’t wish to make any comments out of respect for the process.  This may be considered the first respectful thing I have done since the process began, but that is not for me to say.  I do want to update you on a few other things surrounding the CBA negotiations.

The NHL PR department is busy preparing a media campaign for a shortened NHL season.  They are hard at work adapting the 2013-14 season campaign, as the cancelled season we had expected since last June may come into being.  We are also preparing an invoice for these modifications to be sent to the NHLPA and Molson Coors.  We don’t anticipate this being an impediment to our ongoing talks, which seem to be going well.  I wouldn’t know, I’m not there.

We are also announcing the following fines: Mario Lemieux and Ron Burkle will each be fined $100,000 for being in contact with an NHL player during an ongoing lockout, John Davidson of the Columbus Blue Jackets will be fined $50,000 for being in contact with the media in direct violation of rules allowing any member of the Blue Jackets from saying anything to the media, and Detroit Red Wings owner Mike Illitch will be fined $2,500 for watching the movie Contact, which was just a horrible film.  Am I right? Trust me, he can afford it.

With all the possible progress made yesterday – I wouldn’t know, I wasn’t there – I want to remind the media not to become overly optimistic with the possibility of hockey being played before the start of the next season.  There are no games scheduled to be played as of yet, and our schedule maker is still on vacation, and we don’t wish to bug him while visiting the Cayman Islands.  There is plenty of work to do, and with an office staff that is working only four days a week for 80% of their paycheck while I still get the entirety of my salary, there is only so much the NHL is able to do in a short span of time.

On a final note, I wish to remind the media that I will still be paid my full contract no matter what happens after this CBA is signed.

That’s all for now.  Thank you for attending this media update, sponsored by Bridgestone Tires, the only sponsor still talking to us.