Well, the NHL and the NHLPA met on Tuesday to discuss a new CBA and . . . no, wait! Come back!
Sure: I know why you’re heading for the exits. You’ve heard it all before. After weeks of ignoring – and publicly dissing – each other, the two sides get together, say that they are “Cautiously optimistic,” make a few offers, and then walk away from the negotiations steaming mad, just like every other time before.
But what if this isn’t like every time before?
What if, and I know no one’s buying this (including me), but what if this series of negotiations provides the breakthrough that we’ve all been waiting for? What if the owners and players finally manage to remove their heads from the sphincters and save the NHL from total destruction this time? What in the world would you actually do if the NHL resumed play in the upcoming weeks?
Most of our initial reactions would be to break out our fan gear, buy some tickets (or subscribe to NHL packages such as NHL Gamecenter), shout out a relieved “Hell yeah!” and enjoy us some hockey.
However, there’s enough resentment out there that many fans have already vowed never to return to the sport. Others have promoted the less radical idea of boycotting the NHL for the first few weeks, or even months, hoping that owners will feel the sting of half-empty venues and the decrease in concessions and merchandise sales.
I find myself torn between the “Hell yeah!” crowd and those who want to take a stand and boycott the sport long enough to send a message. Only a fool would rush back to a sport that continually engages in selfish and self-destructive behavior . . . but I love to watch hockey, and my options are limited. Watching my son play is the best hockey experience I could ask for, but he’s still young enough that he only plays 15-20 games a season. I enjoy the AHL . . . but I’m not shelling out $400 in order to have access to every game streamed online! (Wake up, AHL: NHL Gamecenter only charges $170, and even that is too damn much.) I always catch a few AHL games, but I’m not going to totally shun the NHL in favor of an inferior product. Seriously: am I brazen enough to cancel my plans to take my sons to a Sabres-Capitals game in D.C., settling instead for a Crunch game in Syracuse, just to make a point that no one in the NHL will notice? No sir, I am not . . . yet, any way.
It will be interesting to see if a strong fan backlash occurs when (if) the NHL season begins. The NHL deserves some sort of spanking at the hands of its fans; I just don’t know how much it will sting. That’s why I encourage all fans to closely monitor current events, and why I would recommend the NHL get a deal done within the next few days. Fans are truly on the brink of revolt; this could be the last chance the NHL has to salvage its product.