Friday, November 05, 2004

Dry ice

I enjoy a good basketball game as much as the next person. But seriously, is this NHL thing ever gonna get figured out?

Today is the 50th day of the lockout; 146 games have already been missed, not counting the All-Star Game and every contest in the next 45 days, which have all been cancelled too. The NHL and its players association have not met since September, a couple of days before the lockout went into effect. More than 200 NHLers are scattered across Europe and North America, trying to earn a living by playing for local professional clubs or minor-league teams. Commissioner Gary Bettman said recently the season is "likely to slip away" and NHLPA boss Bob Goodenow affirmed that the "all the guys are on board" in their staunch opposition to a salary cap. Somehow all of this is not making me very confident.

I'm starting to feel like I have a better chance of seeing my alma mater Loyola-Maryland Greyhounds celebrating a men's basketball title on the grey tarps at Reitz Arena than I will of seeing NHL hockey this season. (For those of you not familiar with the program, our record the last two seasons is 5-51.) I'm pressing along in my NHL 2005 season for PS2. Seven games into the season, I'm 1-5-0-1. And I still think I've got a better chance of winning a Stanley Cup this year than any NHLer.

What will June be like without a grizzled, bearded man listing along the ice toting a big silver cup and flashing a toothless, ear-to-ear grin? How will I get through April without 16 teams, 16 wins, octopii, sudden death, Buccigross and Melrose? No Sam and J.D.? No Howie and Joe Mich? No Doc, nor Chico, nor Pang & Steve Levy? I'm starting to feel ill...

No matter how the rhetoric czars in the NHL's PR department try to explain it, the league needs to realize that the average fan doesn't understand or care why a salary cap is important. They just want cheap tickets and an exciting product on the ice. And similarly, the players need to understand that the average fan doesn't give a damn about your financial problems when you've been living in a mansion in Oyster Bay for the last six years. No amount of explanations or excuses or apologies can atone for my having to spend January watching sporting events like the "Huminatarian Bowl" or the "Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl." I'd rather be humming the National Hockey Night theme song and knocking hockey balls around my house.

Unfortunately, no one seems all that interested in reaching a bargain or appeasing my appetite for pucks. A few NHL players have spoken out in question of the impasse, but Goodenow has quickly reached out to hush any malcontention. We are left to believe that both sides are at a complete standstill, completely unable and unwilling to work together. And at the expense of those who pay their salaries, the players and owners have got me pretty convinced.

So while we wait for an end to the obstinance, we'll get by on other distractions: the Knicks, Jets, Giants, St. John's, World Series of Poker, Rutgers, or the -- *gulp*, dare I say it? -- Nets! I hope the players are enjoying their extended vacations. I hope the owners have a little extra change in their coffers come Christmastime. In the meantime, I'll be warming up to Trevor Ariza and Jamal Crawford, trying to catch the occasional Rangers classic, and suffering the intolerable silence of an NHL fan who is alone in his misery.

  • E-mail Mike.
  • Newsday's Mark Herrmann chats with Pat LaFontaine.