Throughout the ages, different sports have gained popularity, and then for obscure, and often unknown reasons, fell out of favor and took their place in the dust drenched halls of has-beens. While we cannot answer the question of what happened to those ancient games, we can readily see the imminent demise of one of my favorite sports, hockey. At one time, the pinnacle of hockey success was to play in the National Hockey League (NHL), but, due to current insane salary structuring and profit sharing, the pallbearers are being picked for its funeral. And, as professional hockey plummets off the edge of the existence, other professional sport leagues are hot on its heels. At the heart of the matter is money. As the NHL and its players argue, the fans stand to the side, like children watching their parents fight, and cry. The fans, who should be as excited as kids on Christmas eve, are as sad and lonely as orphans. Fans don’t like to be sad, and won’t allow themselves to be for long, and once they’re gone, they’re gone.
I grew up putting skates on in rink changing rooms heated by coal. The experience was so vivid, that I can still feel the cold burning my nostrils, and smell the coal smoke rising heavenward in a column of gray, vanishing into the starlight of a trillion galaxies. I recall every rafter in the rink (seen from frequent and unintentional horizontal observations of architecture) and will never forget the pain and burning as fingers and toes defrosted. Every kid back then was ‘Rocket Richard’ in their mind, and from frozen ponds to basement walls, “He shoots… He scores!”, was the true national anthem. Teams were usually composed of whoever showed up, and hopefully, a few brought extra sticks. Our protective gear, what little we had, was laughable by today’s standards, so safety primarily consisted of ducking and leaping out of the way. The only time our butts were bruised more, and heads whacked as badly, was at home. When we could, we became siamese twins with our TVs while watching ‘Hockey Night In Canada’, and to even see Lord Stanley’s cup, was like laying eyes on the holy grail. But, sadly, ‘there is a time and season for all things’, and greed has brought about the death of a dream.
Hockey heroes have transformed into self centered overpaid commercial property, who fatally think that the fans are even lucky to see them. The entire hockey industry has spent decades preying upon the fans, leaving them now praying for them. The sale of hockey equipment nationwide is in sharp decline, and attendance at amateur levels of hockey is also down, simply because the NHL has blown two entire seasons. As owners and players argue over salaries and concessions, in dollar amounts that fans can’t even begin to conceive of, single ticket prices approach the cost of a family’s weekly grocery bill, and for playoff seats, more than their rent/mortgage. Yep, all the signs say that the end now draws near.
To compound the distraction to, and the disillusionment of the sport of hockey, are the many physical injuries that children receive. Today, parents frown on concussions, and don’t like seeing their children cut, bruised and wearing plaster casts. They also find it counterproductive to teach children to be non-violent most of the time, but encourage them to beat the crap out of each other when they’re on the ice. Now a nation mourns, watching its beloved sport commit suicide right before its eyes. It feels helpless, and is powerless to stop it from happening. And, as for those greedy owners and players, well, keep your eye out for them at locals restaurants, because their future may be busing tables and washing dishes at one near you.
Soon, the mournful wails of, “If we had only known…”, “We should have seen it coming…”, and “We admit we were wrong”, will accompany the NHL’s somber procession, all the way to the grave. It’s so sad to see the enjoyment of so many ruined, only because of a few money-hungry morons so focused on driving greed, that they drove right over a cliff.