Is it the players?
Is it you, me.. the fans?
Is it the owners?
Is it Gary Bettman??
Here’s a question that is linked to the general statement that is tagged on to the NHL or it’s players from time to time…. Who loves this game?
“For the love of the game”, “We love this game”….etc.
Something that occurred to me while I was watching this lockout unfold, as I’m sure that it occurred to many, was the fact that this is ALL business. (It’s nothing personal dude, it’s just business right?) I also remember thinking about this the last time we (the fans) missed a season of NHL hockey.
The NHL has nothing to do with the love of hockey in a large sense. It does in the sense that you or I love watching hockey, analysing it, thinking or talking about it. Hockey is a great sport.
But the NHL is it’s own entity quite simply. As is the NHLPA. I want to make clear that what I write here is not a knock on either the NHL or the NHLPA.
Both the NHL and the NHLPA are essentially part of a huge 3+ Billion $$$ business. They exist to produce their product and take money from willing clients. Like me. I was quite happy, for instance, to give them some of my hard earned money to purchase NHL Game Center… and some merch. Along with cable channels…etc.
What annoys me a bit is when a catch phrase like “for the love of the game” or anything like that is used in reference to this huge business. People play and work in this league to make $$. And to make quite a bit more $$ than you or I will make. Some make more than many many many of us will ever make in our lifetimes.
And that’s not a reason to be angry with a player. If you or I was offered $4 Million to play hockey. Of course we would take it. It would be foolish not to take that job. As it is also for the owners and their boards to try and profit from us, because as I’ve stated, I willing pay them for the service.
This is a fight about huge $$. It’s not your local construction union or teachers union trying to get a fair shake hoping that by the time they retire they still have a pension. Many have lost both salary and pension funds. This is a fight between people on both sides who make much more money then most of us will never imagine.
So, the NHL and the NHLPA are quite far removed from “the love of the game”. They are a $$ generating entity. That’s enough about that.
There is, however, some really good news if you’re a fan of hockey.
If you’re a fan of hockey and love the game. There are many levels of entertaining hockey to watch. WHL, OHL, QMJHL are 3 great leagues to watch. University hockey is really high calibre, competitive hockey. All these leagues are fast paced and have high skilled talent playing on their rosters.
There is also Junior A, the minor hockey Midget leagues…etc.
Many players playing in these leagues are still playing hockey with a high level of competitive spirit and are much less motivated by the huge pay day they are having…. because even as we see in the NHL (and other pro non hockey leagues), sometimes that huge pay day doesn’t mean it will motivate a player to dedicate himself to the highest degree discipline in order to be the very best he can be.
That isn’t a knock at NHL players either. Honestly, if you or I was offered a job playing hockey in Montreal, you would be a fool to refuse $1 Million.
All this to say that with players signing in Europe already and it looking like we may very well lose a full season again. There is plenty of great hockey that is going to be played. And if you really do love the game, then go support your local minor hockey teams, go support your local major junior teams or junior A or B teams. Go to the local University and see some high calibre, well coached, disciplined hockey.
Many of these leagues may be stronger because of this lockout. And these leagues can benefit from your extra attendance and or volunteerism.
Let the NHL and NHLPA fight it out. In the meantime, go out and enjoy a hockey game.
For the love of the game.