The Malik Report
by George Malik on 11/17/12 at 06:17 PM ET
I'm still a few days away from returning, but even from a limited, getting-over-illness and/or-depression standpoint, I took a look around at the comments made over the past 24 hours and fired off some Tweets that someone suggested might be worth repeating.
They're gloom-and-doom-y, but at this point, I've more or less made my peace with my belief that the NHL's 2012-2013 campaign will be the second in eight years and nine seasons to be stamped "Season Not Played" on the Stanley Cup, and I'm the repetition of the, "Look, there's a wedge between Side A and their collective bargaining representative!" line applied to the players last weekend, and the owners this time around, got me annoyed. Enjoy (I think):
So I'll be back sooner than later, and I'm not exactly going to bring a warm and fuzzy demeanor to the equation, but I do think it's time to inject some healthy skepticism for "reports" coming from an NHL media corps that sometimes talks to hear itself think, and sometimes talks to float a particular person or "side's" agenda...
And there is Red Wings-related stuff going on. Regrettably, none of it's happening in Detroit, barring a still-remarkable level of charitable initiatives from the Wings' organization given their inability to tap into the reserve of players still skating in Troy to help them out.
In all honesty, I said this on Twitter and Facebook a few days ago, when the world was much more gloomy, and I'll repeat it here:
This is my third lockout over the past 18 years and second in the past 8. Even if I had been healthy throughout the process, I'm so disgusted by the lockout-as-a-rule course of CBA negotiations--and the immense, immense harm the NHL is doing to the sport by ensuring that it's most passionate, ardent and highest-spending fans become disenchanted with Gary Bettman, Bill Daly and the Board of Governors' way of doing business (and ensuring that the NHL may very well die a literal death as fans and players alike decide that the once-a-decade and twice-a-long-career number of missed games and missed seasons just aren't worth putting up with anymore when there are other good hockey leagues to support and leagues that won't ask its players to open their pockets and "give at the office" repeatedly)--that I've considered walking away from the sport.
I grew up playing soccer, not hockey, and English "football" is at the wacky point the NHL was in the early 90's, where players could still smoke a pack a day, drink heavily, carouse and act like we expect athletes in non-hockey sports to act and still play until at or around the age of 30. It reminds me of the days when players openly popped eight or ten Sudafeds before games and players like Evgeni Davydov could come over and score a 20-goal season sponsored by Marlboro.
Thankfully for hockey fans, between advances in sports medicine, training and the realization that cleaner living (I'm not saying that they're saints, but successful hockey players have to take care of their bodies and keep their off-ice proirities at least in, "This can't be a distraction from my ability to physically and mentally prepare to play tomorrow" check) can yield satisfying and financially successful ventures in which players can find themselves continuing to be paid to play a kid's game into their mid-to-late-30's, if not their 40's in some instances...Hockey is different these days. The guys who still want to be both professional athletes and professional partiers or professional substance abusers don't last very long, and in that sense, there's a real and fiscal disincentive (in a sane and operating NHL, anyway) against the kinds of activities that...Let's say certain AHL players and maybe even Red Wings prospects find themselves dealing with the consequences from.
And personally speaking?
It's hard to walk away from a sport when you have a partisan interest in rooting for a team whose owners, management, coaches on down to the players, support staff and even prospects are, by and large, genuinely good people who you wind up rooting for as human beings as well as members of your favorite sports team upon interacting with them. And in the vast majority of my interactions with the Red Wings, Grand Rapids Griffins and Toledo Walleye organizations, from speaking with Ken Holland, Jim Nill or the ever-intimidating Mike Babcock to interviewing the Nicklas Lidstroms, Hernik Zetterbergs, Jimmy Howards, Thomas McCollums, Petr Mrazeks and Willie Coetzees, I've come to care for the people who represent, wear and aspire to wear the Winged Wheel.
I don't know why Mike and Chris Ilitch and Jimmy Devellano came to the conclusion that supporting Gary Bettman and the owners' lockout was worth it for a third frickin' time, especially given the devastation this lockout's wreaking upon Joe Louis Arena's broadcast and rink-night employees (though the team has ensured that nobody in the front office has lost their job, unlike so many other teams that handed out pink slips or out-and-out fired people for the sake of streamlining business operations) and the restaurants, bars, merchandise-hawking shops and other community businesses that depend on the Wings to survive, I really can't find a reason for the Wings' ownership to justify having chosen to get back on board Bettman and the Board of Governors' crazy train...
But the peole who work for Mr. I, starting from Jimmy D on down to grumpy Al Sobotka and everywhere in between in both Detroit and Grand Rapids are genuinely friendly, approachable, kind and generous with their time, mental and physical energies, and they truly seem to embody the understanding that the, "To Whom Much is Given, Much is Expected" line adorning the locker room exit extends to more than just the incredibly high on-ice standards applied to everyone who works in the organization. It's about the way you conduct yourself off the ice, with fans, even (gasp!) the media and especially the community that matters most, and by and large, everybody who works for Mr. Ilitch in Detroit or the De Vos family in Grand Rapids tries to carry the weight of those expectations.
They are not without foibles and not without faults, and everybody makes mistakes--Riley Sheahan's requires its own entry and discussion, to be sure--but to cut a long story short, while I do not expect to witness NHL hockey being played before preseason games take place in September, 2013, and think that's both a tragedy and travesty (see: this should cost the Chairman his job, for starters, because the Nuclear Commissioner and the Board of Governors are hopelessly out of touch with the fact that they're killing their league from its heart on out) on a league-wide and Red Wings ownership-sponsored level...
The players, coaches and management are the reason I'm tring to weather this shitstorm of depressing news, the league's attempts to turn itself into a pretzel while excusing and explaining away its from-the-start intent to lock the players and fans out for the entire season to nuke the village in order to save it, and I'm willing to come back from a depressive episode on top of two months' of illness to cover this bloody frickin' mess because I love the game and I love the human faces who represent the Red Wings' organization too much to sell my ten pairs of gloves and cluck my tongue at Mario Balotelli instead.
That's it for me for now. See you in a couple of days, and try to keep the faith. This lockout is a bunch of bullshit from a bunch of owners and their nutty commissioner (and deputy commish), sponsored by greed, the belief that a retroactive bailout is required of the "talent" owners will always charge fans supply-and-demand as opposed to payroll-based admission prices to watch play, and a sort of, "I can fix my mistakes" crusade by the last CBA's true author, Bill Daly, and it's baffling that any sane group of entertainment providers would assent to splitting up 43% of nothing as opposed to 43% of $3.3 billion because that's "more fair"...
But while your faith in the NHL and even the Red Wings might be just as disturbingly shaky as mine, I can at least assure you that the Wings' management, coaches, players and prospects are worth hanging on and weathering this stupid, unnecessary storm to cheer for, not only because they're pretty spectacular at hockey, but also, and mostly, because they're pretty spectacular people.
It's too bad that the owners and the league have chosen to make it so very hard for us to cheer them on, and so very hard for those of us who feel like the "payoff" of spending so much of our time, energy, emotional effort and especially our money is that the Red Wings allow us to be a part of a bigger community of like-minded fans (at a time when our country couldn't be more splintered and almost disgustingly divided in everything but a unifiyng sense of acerbic, acidic disdain for everyone who doesn't totally agree with us, as our election cycle bore out [and kinda embittered me, big time]) to participate in the community that sustains us and (usually) helps us get through our difficult days.
If there is any hope and any good in any of this, it's that the "suckers" aren't being proved hypocrites, and that no amount of bad news can serve as a gag order. We may not always agree about who's to blame in a lockout game where "50 shades of blame" doesn't begin to describe the nuances of the stupidity taking place, but hockey fans are a tough and resilient bunch, and even a full-season lockout won't shut us up.
Thankfully, for Wings fans, anyway, we've got people worth believing in and cheering for. And we've got each other, though that isn't much comfort when the desire to watch the best hockey players in the world play against each other involves booking a European trip.
See you in a couple of days. And keep the faith, even if it's flopping in the wind like a tattered and torn flag, like mine.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.