Wednesday, September 15, 2004

He shoots...he's...locked out.

Today is the deadline for talks in the NHL to be completed. Much focus should be put on the word dead.

Now, I'm not really a big hockey fan. I enjoy watching the occasional game, and was very proud to watch Canada smack everybody around during the World Cup. However, I just never really became the kind of fanatic that would practically kill somebody for blocking the screen in overtime play, and would sell their own left testicle for Gold seats at the Air Canada Centre. Any kind of fanaticism like that can be dangerous, especially mixed with testosterone and alcohol...as evidence of the events in Toronto last night would prove. Following the game last night, a lot of schmucks went out and thought that Canada winning the series gave them the right to destroy property and punch police officers. On TV this morning you would have thought it was feedback tape from the LA Riots....lovely...just the kind of image Canada needs on the worldstage these days. Embarrassing.

That wasn't where I was going with this, but the punchline sometimes writes itself. What I wanted to write about was I have a feeling this kind of thing has the potential of having the same effect of the Baseball strike ten years ago. In Toronto, we went from complete euphoria about our team, The Blue-Jays, winning back to back world series titles to 'Baseball? Who watches baseball?'. It felt like everybody had given up on watching the professional sport altogether, though the smaller leagues still thrived. People didn't give up on Baseball, specifically, they just felt so disgusted with the concept of their idols complaining because they had to give up their 13th Porshe due to cutbacks. It just feel evil and greedy. Especially as those same idols worked so closely with organizations that fought for the little guy - it just didn't add up.

Hockey's getting the same way, and maybe it's time to break things down a bit.

I totally understand how hard young hockey players have to work to even get a remote shot of getting onto a Farm-Team, never mind the NHL itself. But when you have so many people in cities all over Canada and the United States complaining because they aren't getting enough public services, and the city is having to bail out a struggling hockey franchise because it's paying its players 1.5m per season in a 7 year contract you just have to pause and wonder.

Toronto has an even worst problem, which amplifies everyone elses. We are the premiere hockey town. I'm not sure any other city can get even close to matching us on that. However, the biggest hockey fans can't even afford to get nose-bleed tickets because the best tickets are all corporate. Ticket prices match demand, as with any normal service....but then how does a city that isn't necessarily a hockey town compete? I've heard tell you could just walk in off the street during Playoff games in the Southern States and buy tickets to a game at face value. Here in Toronto you would risk your life to pay 20 times the face value from a Scalper in a dark alley during that same series.

Owners are the biggest culprits for this problem because from one side of their mouth they will agree with all the other owners to play on an even field, and then turn around and offer some new hotshot an insane salary to keep them from heading off to a new team. And it's those same owners who are locking out the players. Go figure.

Don't kill me for saying it (thank god for your computer screen and millions of miles of fibre/copper wiring separating us), but maybe what we need is a good long 1-2 year break so they can restructure the system. Following that I could see a viable league running for the next 2-3 decades on steam alone. Without that? The whole thing may collapse under the weight of its players egos and salaries.

Tim is not a sports columnist, nor affiliated with any sports organization. He's just some poor deluded idiot that you want to strangle and string up in a tree for the vultures to consume.

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