January 20, 2013 by bmcconnelluwo
Watching that game of rusty hockey between the Leafs and the Canadiens last night sure warmed the heart, didn’t it?
All those 20-somethings [some of the geezers are even in their 30s now] finally stepping back onto the ice after being locked out of their arenas like that time Coach Carter locked the door to the gym because of his players’ terrible grades.
Now, I know there was a mass of people during the lockout screaming “Boycott the NHL” “Down with Bettman and that other guy” and “So, is McDonald’s still doing hockey cards this year?” People were pissed. And you can’t really blame them.
Billionaires arguing with millionaires about labor rights and pensions when most of these players make more than the culmination of my student loan in one game. Granted, hockey is far more important than journalism, policing, firefighting and most medical professions combined but still, that kind of grills my moose—as the Canadians would say.
I was even pissed. And I don’t usually even care about what businessmen like Bettman or Fehr are doing because, to me, they all just form an amorphous blob of suits hell bent on scheming our money away from us.
Anytime I was asked what I thought about the lockout or the weekly rumors that this time it might really be ending I replied “I don’t really care – I don’t see there being a season and nor do I really want there to be at this point.”
Why? I’ve been an avid hockey fan since I was that weird little Canadian kid with the southern drawl playing road hockey in the scorching heat on my street in Houston, Texas – you know, where hockey was born. I’ve been a die-hard Leafs fan for as long as I can remember and my winters in Canada consisted almost exclusively of pond hockey, Tim Horton’s hot chocolate and watching the Leafs being knocked out in the playoffs – but only after sweeping the Senators.
I love hockey. Always have, always will.
But this time around I wasn’t on board. Any company CEO that has three labor lockouts under them alone, each time locking out their key commodity – I’ll give you a hint; it’s their fans – would have been fired faster than the Leafs can blow a 3-goal lead.
But yet he’s still there and the fans keep coming back. I came back; everyone I know came back. The first thing out of my mouth after last night’s less-than-exciting Leafs/Canadiens games was “Well, that was actually really boring. But they’re all just rusty – it’ll get better.”
So how did I and so many other fans go from “Tear Down the Wall” to “Holy crap, look, that hockey thing again” like we’re all infested with one of those mind-control brain slugs from Futurama?
Because despite all the Bettmans and Fehrs in the world, we Canadians are somewhat fond of hockey. It’s the reason parents will travel hours away at 5am in snowy weather for practice; the reason so many kids dream of one day being a locked out player in the NHL themselves; the reason I used to play so much body-numbing cold pond hockey that I practically gave myself the old water lung at 13.
It’s because Canadian hockey fans are Canadian hockey fans – and that sentiment is self-evident to Canadian hockey fans.
We went back, not because of the brain slugs, but because of a deep-seated love of hockey and our teams – but also probably the brains slugs.
A loyalty like that doesn’t come easily in any other business. If someone buys an HP computer and it consistently lets them down and never makes the playoffs, there’s no way in hell that person will go back and get another HP.
The NHL has a mass of fans so loyal, so dedicated and with such deep pockets that they are literally money fishing with dynamite. But they better be careful the next time they decide that their own interests and the interests of their investors are more important than those of their fans.
Because nothing is too big to fail and all the torch relays and free tickets in the world aren’t going to stop a mob of angry Canadians when someone gets between them and their hockey.
Stop with the unrealistic greed and tantrum-like business practices and keep the players on the ice so the fans can doing what they do best – spend money, drink beer, argue about young men playing a game and watch their sport that has been around long before either of you were born.
Go Leafs Go.