The Malik Report
by George Malik on 12/04/12 at 09:13 PM ET
The announcement that Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch's Ilitch Holdings business organization is backing legislation which would facilitate the construction of a massive "mixed-use" development which will include a follow-on rink succeeding Joe Louis Arena has everything to do with timing.
We should know more about the proposed rink, as the Detroit News notes, the residential space, commercial development which will include the "mall" Mike Babcock conveniently leaked ten months ago and, most likely, a practice facility of some sort over the next couple of days, as the details of said development will slowly but surely find their way into the online print and broadcast media's hands, but the timing of this news involves three critical factors in terms of timing, ease of legislation and fan impact:
- First and foremost, it's much easier to enter into a legally binding agreement with the City of Detroit before the in-fighting between Mayor Bing, the City Council and the State officially puts the city into bankruptcy sooner than later, and if Ilitch Holdings plans on entering into said agreement, time is of the essence, because the reality show that is Detroit politics makes those nut-jobs in Washington look downright competent.
- Second, the "lame duck" legislature in Lansing consists of perhaps the most Republican, conservative and business-friendly group of legislators ever assembled in the state's Capitol building, so there is no better time to push any sort of legislation that might "cost" Michigan taxpayers for a perceived economic benefit through the House and Senate.
- And third, and perhaps most importantly from a "spirit of the thing" perspective, let's face it:
It is most likely that, despite whatever progress may or may not be made during today's players-and-owners meeting, the Red Wings' voting member of the Board of Governors, Jimmy Devellano, will endorse the likely "cattle call" vote to scuttle the 2012-2013 season when the BoG meets tomorrow in New York, and with precious few days of negotiating left, it is al but inevitable that the season will be canceled by or shortly after Christmas at the latest.
With the NHLPA unlikely to decertify due to pension concerns and the PA's wariness of engaging Gary Bettman, Bill Daly, the Board and Proskauer Rose, the NHL's outside counsel, in court (as ESPN's Craig Custance so deftly explained on Monday), we're probably looking at a lockout that won't end until the CBA is finally negotiated not days or weeks but months from now.
As such, it's entirely possible that this Saturday's "Rock Out the Lockout" game* between the remaining Red Wings practicing in Metro Detroit and Windsor-based NHL'ers at Windsor's WFCU Centre may be the only game Wings fans can expect to witness as taking place between two teams comprised of mostly NHL-level players this season (assuming that the sides don't hold a second game in Metro Detroit at some point in January or February, which would mirror the pair of charity games held at Yost Ice Arena to raise funds for the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital at the University of Michigan during the previous lockout).
All things considered, and given the fact that so many die-hard Red Wings fans find themselves among the most disenfranchised, dispirited and despairing because this third owners' lockout has hit the hardest-core and most-willing-to-spend fans like a freight train running over their heart...
There is no better time to send a message to the fans stating that while the organization may endorse what is truly a stupid and needless lockout, it harbors little-to-no ill will toward the players that are its product, the employees who've continued to market an aging facility to fans, sponsors, business partners and event promoters as even the Palace has begun to show signs of wear and tear, or (and especially) the fans who so desperately want to watch the players skate in the Winged Wheel again.
Call it an olive branch, call it an apology wrapped in details that have slowly but surely been leaked out to the press as it's become more and more clear that the Wings' new rink will be built at or around Woodward Avenue and Temple Street in Detroit, or call it whatever else you wish. Its resounding message is simple:
The Red Wings' ownership may endorse this lockout, but that endorsement does not detract from its commitment toward the City of Detroit, Wayne County, the State of Michigan and Red Wings fans who've long dreamed of watching their Wings play in a faciilty with Joe Louis Arena's sight lines, the Palace's creature comforts, restaurants and bars close to the facility as opposed to cut off by an overpass and a People Mover ride to Foxtown or Greektown, and, and perhaps most importantly, a rink containing enough bathrooms that one won't miss half a period of play if he or she has to pee.
I hate to say it, but there is what I will jokingly call a Brokeback Mountain element to all of this, and I think that the Wings, Olympia Entertainment and Ilitch Holdings understand as much.
Even those of us who are so sick and tired of the NHL and its "negotiating = nuclear option" mentality amongst its owners and their representatives find it hard to walk away from the sport we love, at least if we are members of what is still Red Wings Nation, for a simple reason: most of us care far too much about the organization, from its hands-on ownership down to its management, coaches and especially players and prospects to "quit it" or "quit them."
The truth of the matter for so many of us, and so many of our discretionary incomes, is that the above-mentioned people are by and large good human beings who we genuinely care about, perhaps to the point that they feel like members of our extended family and our fellow community of Red Wings fans, and that's why we're not eBaying our Wings jerseys right now, and why we're imagining ourselves paying money to plant our butts in seats at what we all hope will be Steve Yzerman or Gordie Howe Arena.
I hope the Ilitches, Olympia and Ilitch Holdings--and the Red Wings' management, coaches and players--know that our continued faith in them, as this "season not played" continues to unravel, will need to be repaid in word and deed when they can come together and agree to let us back into Joe Louis Arena again.
*I won't be able to make Saturday's game due to health issues. Please tell the players I said, "Hi" and wish them well. They're gonna need to know some fans still believe in 'em and care about them, even if you disagree with their negotiating side's position, because they're going to be practicing and working out without any NHL hockey payoff for another eight or nine months.
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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.