Now that Opening Night of the upcoming(?) NHL season has come and gone I can’t help but think of all the time and money I invested in my favorite teams over the years – and how little the NHL appreciates it. What really pisses me off is ticket prices and the cost of NHL Center Ice and souvenirs are at an all-time high, yet Gary Bettman and the owners he works for can’t agree on how to divide their bounty with the players.
How have I handled the lockout? It depends on your point of view and it’s a complex answer. I love hockey. Or at least I thought I did. If there’s one thing I learned during this latest pissing match –err, lockout – between the NHL and its players is that life will go on without them.
Case in point. Earlier this evening I was overjoyed when I learned NBC Sports Network carried the Notre Dame – Maine hockey game. I stumbled on it early in the third period, and the Irish were up 1-0. It looked like a good game, but ten minutes later I switched to HBO and decided watching Bridesmaids for the umpteenth time was more entertaining.
Yes, being without pro hockey in Southern California can drive you into the arms of Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph for two hours of laughter. But now that the movie’s over I’m no longer laughing. It’s mid-October and we still don’t have an NHL season to look forward to.
Last time, I had minor league hockey to get me through the lockout. This time, I’m not as lucky. The San Diego Gulls no longer exist, and in the mother of all ironies Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG), the owners of the Los Angeles Kings, also own the decrepit Valley View Casino Center, the arena the Gulls once played in as well as the ECHL’s Ontario Reign, now the closest thing to professional hockey Southern California has.
A few years ago the owner of AEG stated minor league hockey would never return to San Diego because six Black Eyed Peas concerts were more profitable than forty AHL or ECHL home games. Who the hell still listens to the Black Eyed Peas? And why would I want to give the Reign $20 or more of my hard earned cash for a game ticket when its owner won’t give me a local team to root for?
In 2004, I gave the NHL and the NHLPA a free pass because they were going to fix the game once the lockout was over. What have they done since then? They’ve made things worse. Here’s a few examples:
- Scott Gomez was paid $3.75 million per goal last season by the Montreal Canadiens – and they have yet to buy him out.
- Wade Redden got paid $5 million for each of the last two seasons by the New York Rangers to play in the AHL.
- Jeff Finger was paid $7 million over the past two seasons to play for the Toronto Marlies, but at least he got to play in a playoff game this past spring. (BOOM!)
- Since 2008, Darcy Tucker has been paid $1 million a season by the Toronto Maple Leafs to stay away. He will continue to collect this annual salary until 2014.
- The NHL allowed the Atlanta Thrashers to take flight to Winnipeg without resistance, yet keep pumping millions of dollars into a terminally ill Phoenix Coyotes franchise that should have moved or folded two years ago.
I really feel sorry for the players this time around. The NHL may be irreparably broken for good and the only thing the players ever did “wrong” was sign the contracts NHL owners shoved under their noses every July 1st or shortly afterward.
As for the owners and Bettman, they can all piss off. This lockout is all about a bunch of billionaires who don’t care about the game, its players or its fans. All they want is more money.
I’ve decided the NHL has had enough of mine. No more jerseys. No more hats. And especially no more NHL Center Ice. My days as a revenue source for those greedy bastards are over.