Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 12/01/12 at 07:16 AM ET
from Bill Saporito of TIME,
The NHL’s policy of exclusion—we’re not going to negotiate anything, and we don’t want to honor the player contracts that we’ve already signed—is a sports version of the Republican party. This is the second lockout that Bettman has orchestrated—the entire 2004-2005 season was lost on his watch. It’s a bitter holdout by what seems to be a few extreme owners bent on bringing the players to heel at the expense of the ticket-buying general public. We’ve seen what voters thought of the GOP‘s strategy. They reelected a left-handed basketball player.
Meanwhile in the north part of North America, the MLS added a team in the very heart of ice hockey this year, the Montreal Impact. It’s the third MLS team in Canada, and the new boys drew crowds of 60,000 plus at the Olympic Stadium before moving into the cozier confines of Stade Saputo. It sets up a potential new rivalry with Toronto FC, another relatively recent arrival to MLS, and one that could offset the historic Canadiens/Maple Leafs faceoff. (Although FC Toronto seems as lame as the Leafs have been over the last, oh, 30 years.) MLS is finding a deep fan base up north of the border, a contrast to the disappointment of the NHL’s southern strategy in planting teams in places such as Phoenix (bankrupt), Atlanta (moved), Tampa and Miami (quick, what’s the team’s name?). The growth of MLS in the U.S. and Canada, and the characteristics of the fan base say a lot about the future of the game. “The demographics don’t lie: our two countries have become soccer nations,” said Garber. Those same demographics—more Hispanic, less white— are a warning sign to the NHL, which apparently believes it can abuse its fans without consequences. MLS is growing because it has nurtured its fan base.
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