I haven't been following the most recent NHL lockout very closely because I think the league should be shut down completely and restarted free of the tragic missteps it has taken over the past 12 years. I grew up playing hockey in Massachusetts. I lived and breathed the sport for close to 20 years and played yearround sometimes on three teams at the same time. My dad and I logged thousands of miles in the car around New England and up to Canada. He did the same with my older brother and younger sister. The pond in our backyard was where we all learned to play the game. I get chills when I think about the Miracle on Ice and furious when the name Ulf Samuelsson is mentioned or written. Do you know where the Pet Brick is in Slap Shot?
The point is that it wasn't easy to turn my back on the NHL, but the league gave me no choice. I wrote about all of this a while ago, but an article on ESPN today has me thinking about it again. The owners are without question at fault in this case. One example, the New York Rangers signed Bobby Holik to a 5 year $45 million contract in July of 2002. Bobby Holik is a lot of things, but in no sense is he worth $9m a year. Owners like this don't need a salary cap, they need a semblance of intelligence. Hockey sense, you might say. Why would you pay Holik $45m when you could have had Iginla for less money? Again, this is just an example, but it illustrates why the game is so terrible and former die-hard fans like myself don't miss it at all. Foolish contracts are only a small part of the problem. The game expanded too quickly and gleefully ditched its small market Canadian franchises for bizarre locations in the southeast. Explain again why the Hartford Whalers moved to Carolina. These combined to dilute the talent pool and alienate fans in all markets. The league has teams in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee. It just recently put one back in Minnesota after the disgraceful move to Dallas.
So blow it up, I say. Let the owners and players that are serious about a league put out a new product. All the needed elements are at the ready; bad businessmen are the only ones standing in the way.
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