Join the Revolution, Be the Revolution
By Littlefoot from DL Hockey
Over the last few months, the NHL has made some new gains; a team in Las Vegas, a return of Global Games to Sweden and for the first time ever...preseason games in China. However, Gary Bettman recently announced there would be no World Cup in 2020 on the heels of no Olympic Participation this season. This is one of the many signs our beloved sport is heading into treacherous waters again. Another lockout is on the horizon, and this would be the 4th under Bettman’s watch if it does. The damage has not been repaired from 2nd lockout back in 04-05, and another would damage the league irreparably. DL Hockey is calling on all fans to start a hockey revolution to help make our sport great again. Here are just a number of the reasons why.
No Marketability of the Game or our Stars
I remember being a kid in the 90’s, and hockey had really started taking off in the United States. Fox had just signed a deal to become the first telecaster of NHL games in the United States for the first time since the early 70’s, and ESPN had started ratcheting up its own coverage of the league, headed of course by Barry Melrose in the studio, and Gary Thorne and Bill Clement as the top play by play guys. Fox had the really cool promos, the glowing puck, the hockey robots and Mike Emrick with John Davidson calling the games. It was a great time to be a hockey fan. You also had lots of commercials, the ones I remember being the Nike ones with Sergei Fedorov, skating through a whole zone of defenseman and goalies. The former goalie ones were also fantastic. The Bud Ice commercial with the Hanson brothers and the Lays commercials with Mark Messier were also memorable.
(Did anyone catch the young Mac from Sunny and Finch from American Pie?)
Fast forward to 2017, NBC is the only broadcaster of NHL games, on both the parent and the NBC Sports Network channels, but every time you turn on a game on a Sunday afternoon, its either the Penguins, Capitals or Blackhawks. The recurring joke here in St. Louis is that NBC stands for the National Blackhawks Channel or Nobody But Crosby, but that’s not the worst part. The commentators aren’t as good as they used to be, and no one can stand Mike Millbury or Pierre McGuire. Worse still is the marketing of the stars, or should I say lack thereof. The only hockey commercials I see anymore are the Patrick Kane Gatorade commercial, and the Backstrom GEICO commercials. With all the great and upcoming stars in our league, you’d think someone in the league office would say, “Hey, McDavid and Matthews are the future of our league, we should really promote the hell out of these guys.” Sadly, however, they haven’t. This is the Art Ross, Hart, Lindsay and Calder winners from last year, and no one besides the true fans know who they are. In the 90’s everyone knew who Brett Hull was, even though he played for the Blues. If they don’t know who your stars are, something is wrong.
The Olympics and a Lockout…..Again
Yes I know it’s a couple years down the road but this will happen if changes aren’t made. The latest grievance between the owners and the players has to do with the Olympics and World Cup. There is no bigger stage in the world than the Olympics, and it gives the NHL players exposure to a different audience that isn’t just hockey fans. TJ Oshie became a sensation getting a tweet from the POTUS after his shootout heroics against Russia in 2014. Now because owners don’t want the league to shut down for 3 weeks, and because they are afraid of injuries and players tiring out, there are no NHL players allows in South Korea for the games in February. Now I’m not indifferent to the owners concerns, in this case, it’s a very reasonable argument. However, judging by the players reaction, I’d say they got it wrong big time. Players like Ovechkin and Tarasenko have talked openly about the pride they have when they put on that jersey for their own clubs, but that gets magnified by 10 when talking about representing your country. For those two especially, and for all American born players, while winning a Stanley Cup is a fantastic thing, and we see what players sacrifice to do so. To bring home a gold medal for their country, something that hasn’t happened in almost 30 years for Russia and over 30 for the United States, would mean everything to them. Talk to anyone who played for Canada in 2002, when they won their first hockey gold medal in over 50 years, it meant a lot to them. Phil Esposito said it best during the Summit Series in 1972, “We make our money in the States, but we are playing for Canada because we love our home.”
This will be one of the many points of contention in the next labor agreement, and considering the last 3 negotiations have ended in a lockout, I don’t feel very good about this one ending in any way but that once again.
Disconnect Between Fans and League
Adidas just unveiled the new jerseys the players will be wearing for the upcoming season after taking over the contract from Reebok. The jerseys look nice for the most part but they come with higher sticker tag, again. $180 for a blank jersey, $225 for a player one, and $250 for a custom one. Another company named Fanatics is making the premier replica jerseys, which are cheaper than the Adidas ones but are still in the $140 range. The price for these jerseys has continued to go up, and fans are fighting back in their own ways. They are buying so-called knockoff jerseys from Chinese sites at $30. Now some people say those aren’t real fans. I and I know many other people would rather buy these jerseys, which look half decent and like the ones they sell in the shops, and use the money left over for other needs, or even to buy equipment of their own to play in their leagues, or for their kids to play in theirs. Ticket prices continue to go up, and in the big markets like Chicago, Detroit, Toronto, Montreal, New York, we are talking $150 for nosebleed seats, it’s getting out of hand. All this money goes to the owners, and quite a few of them aren’t concerned with anything, but the bottom line. They could care less about the fans and the players as long as they are making a profit.
Of course, public enemy #1 has always and will continue to be Gary Bettman, and as long as he is in power, nothing will change and the league will continue to lag behind football, basketball, and baseball. Oh, by the way, soccer is really coming on here in the States and may take over hockey’s spot in the hierarchy soon. To kill a snake, you must cut off the head, and in this case, the head is Gary Bettman and his Yes men in the league office.
The NHL needs new leadership to reflect the changing times in our league and our society. The NFL, NBA, and MLB have all gotten new leaders since Gary Bettman took over as the first commissioner of the National Hockey League. 24 years and 3 lockouts later, we are at a crossroads, the fork in the road, and choosing the right path will either take the NHL to new heights or lead us down the path of more of the same.
We need a revolution, and it must start with you. Join the revolution. Be the revolution.