| Lockout Diary
The wait begins
9/16/04 - By Paul
September 15, 12 noon - NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has
just put the whole NHL season on hold. I'm sitting in the McDonald's in
downtown San Jose, home of the Sharks. There's a TV on in here - maybe it's
showing the ESPN press conference about the NHL lockout, I hope?
It's news about the hurricane 3,000 miles away.
I look around to see
if somebody, anybody, is visibly upset about our beloved Sharks being left in
limbo. I see no visible signs of any emotional outpouring. It's more likely
that I'm the only one in the restaurant who even knows about the lockout.
September 15, 10 p.m. - I turn on ESPN for news about the lockout.
Surely, it will be the lead story, no?
Uh, no. There's news about the
Giants game, the A's game, another baseball game, and another baseball game.
Finally, after waiting through five to 10 minutes of the broadcast, there is a
45-second spot on the NHL.
September 16, 7:40 a.m. - I'm at the
CalTrain station across the street from the sports palace formerly known as San
Jose Arena, where the Sharks play. Once again, I look for signs of weeping and
gnashing of the teeth over the Sharks' plight. After all, the Sharks were just
a few injuries away from winning it all a few months ago - San Joseans ought to
be concerned about their hometown Sharks being stopped from pursuing that
Stanley Cup in 2004.
Once again, all is silent and I suspect I'm the
only one in the vicinity who even knows what's going on.
So, it seems obvious to me that most people will do
fine without NHL hockey. Most won't even notice it's missing. So maybe the
lockout, with the players' vow to stay out for eternity rather than accept a
salary cap, presents a unique opportunity.
Since interest in NHL
hockey is minimal except among the relatively few diehards, the NHL ought to
just give players a year to accept a salary cap and then impose one anyway.
Then bring in replacement players earning a fraction of the current players and
cut ticket prices by two-thirds to lure in new fans.
Most people in
San Jose probably would not pay the going rate of $20 to more than $100 to see
a hockey game. But they might come in if a game costs not much more than a bad
movie that will be out on video in a few months. Since the masses do not even
recognize the names of the big-money players, perhaps this bargain-basement
approach might just be the solution to growing the game beyond the few
The whole thing reminds me of Star Trek III, where Captain
Kirk blew up the Enterprise, only to get a better Enterprise at the end of Star
Trek IV. A new beginning, with new players, new prices and the same old
franchises, could be the solution for the NHL to get out of the shadows of
baseball, football, NASCAR, pro wrestling, golf, etc. After all, we do have the
world's greatest game here with hockey. Quality of play will be built up
gradually over a few seasons. (Many don't think much of the brand of hockey the
NHL has been playing lately, anyhow.)
As for the players refusing the
salary cap, they might just find out the hard way that the game and the NHL can
go on just fine without them.
Contact Paul at at firstname.lastname@example.org
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