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Ignoring History

Scott Burnside always produces thoughtful pieces, but this column does nothing more than reiterate what other writers and pundits have been saying time and time again over the past four months:

In the wake of a freshly minted labor agreement, one that in the end didn't cost an entire season but did cost almost half the 2012-13 season, the Winter Classic in Detroit and the All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio, not to mention a healthy dollop of credibility on both sides of the fence, no one knows just how significantly the game has been damaged.

One long-time executive with a collection of personal and team awards under his belt suggested recently it would be "a battle" to bring the fans back.

Too many hockey writers have let their emotions get in the way of common sense during the labor dispute, and Burnside is no different.  He thinks the lockout has damaged the game.  He believes Gary Bettman and the players need to kiss and make up with the fans.  He suggests the league could have trouble attracting corporate sponsors going forward.


The game isn't damaged, by any means.  Hockey is much bigger than the NHL, and it's absurd to suggest a work stoppage in one professional league, even if it is the best in the world, could hurt the sport as a whole.  Those of us who've attended minor-league, college, and junior hockey games this season have enjoyed a wonderful product.  The sport has so much to offer, with or without the NHL.

The problem is exclusive NHL fans don't follow other hockey leagues, which is why they routinely complain about having nothing to watch during prolonged labor disputes.  Deprived of their daily hockey fix, NHL fans have experienced a variety of emotions during the lockout, including anger, apathy, and frustration.  That kind of reaction seemingly causes people, including Burnside, to overstate the lasting impact of the labor dispute on the fan base.

Human beings have a tendency to construct their own stories in an effort to make sense of the world.  The idea that the NHL is somehow in need of repair resonates with fans who feel cheated by the lockout, but the fact of the matter is it's not a rational argument.  The league has gone through two similar work stoppages, and it recovered quite nicely in both instances.  What makes anyone think the latest gong show will yield a different result?

As far as sponsors are concerned, nothing will change.  The league's fan base is extremely diverse, and considering the outlandish price of tickets these days, there's a lot of disposable income in the stands at NHL arenas.  Major corporations looking to create or maintain a presence in marketplace would be foolish to avoid such a wealthy and cosmopolitan clientele.  It simply won't happen.

For the next week or so, the idle threats from jilted NHL fans and columnists will continue.  Luckily, the emotional outbursts will cease once the puck drops.  The constant barrage of bitching has been just as painful as the lockout itself. 

The doomsayers lack credibility because they hold an opinion that ignores historical precedent.  Hockey fans have proven they're much too passionate to abandon a league that likely spawned their love for this great sport. 

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Pretty sure that by “the game,” he’s referring specifically to the NHL game.  Nowhere did I see him mention other leagues, college hockey, etc.

And he did make some tangible arguments for how the lockout will hurt the game, no matter anyone’s personal opinion (yours included): sponsors giving up and electing to spend their money elsewhere, for instance, is not a good thing for the league.

I’m not predicting doom and gloom for the league, but initially there will be some problems that wouldn’t have been there if not for the lockout (not even including the sponsorship issues).  A lot of fans aren’t going to want to spend money on GameCenter Live, for instance.  And if the league makes it a freebie for this season, then they’re losing revenue.  Just one example.

And I’m not even going to begin to get into the issue of how this looks to the “casual sports fan”—it’s a bigger unknown, in my opinion, but I imagine the NHL looks like more of a joke league to a lot of people after this ridiculous lockout.  Not a good way to cultivate new fans, you know?

Posted by nosferatu from Albany, NY on 01/06/13 at 02:10 PM ET


The lemming, both fans and sponsors, will return and both sides will chuckle

Posted by pcoffey on 01/06/13 at 02:10 PM ET


Pretty sure that by “the game,” he’s referring specifically to the NHL game.

Exactly.  To suggest he is talking about the actual game of hockey is completely absurd.

Posted by Garth on 01/06/13 at 02:15 PM ET

redxblack's avatar

Fans who forgive and forget are the reason the owners were so bold as to use the lockout as their FIRST negotiating tactic. I won’t enable those abuses again. I won’t be dropping cash on this “product”, but I will still watch for free as many games as possible.

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 01/06/13 at 02:35 PM ET

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About Tasca's Take

Tasca's Take is written by Joe Tasca. Born and raised in Westerly, Rhode Island, Joe works as a broadcaster for seven radio stations in southern New England. Whether that's a testament to his on-air ability or because he has a desparate need for money is debatable.

Joe spends his summers playing golf, enjoying the beauty of Misquamicut Beach, and wining and dining girls who are easily awed by the mere presence of a radio personality. During the winter months, he can usually be found taking in a hockey game somewhere in North America. In the spring, he spends much of his time in botanical gardens tiptoeing through the tulips, while autumn is a time to frolic with his golden retrievers through piles of his neighbors’ leaves.