In 1984, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure wrote the song, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” in an effort to raise money for the famine that was decimating Ethiopa at the time. In writing the lines “Do they know it’s Christmas time at all? and “We know / Let them know it’s Christmastime,” the songwriters were pointing out that, when you’re knee deep in your own, ah, crap, it’s often impossible to notice what is going on with the rest of the world.
Well, if you haven’t noticed, the NHL is not knee-deep in its own crap; it’s neck-deep, and about to start drowning in it. The problem is, I don’t know if the players and owners TRULY realize how this lockout looks to everyone witnessing the madness as it unfolds. It’s virtually impossible to believe that the players and owners are oblivious to what the media and fans are writing and saying about this mess – between tv, radio, print sources, the internet, and social media complaints about the lockout are literally everywhere – so it cannot be that the guilty parties haven’t read or heard how pissed off anyone not gainfully employed by the NHL is about the third labor stoppage in the past twenty years. No, they know what we’re saying, and players and owners alike are saying all the correct things to the media: Bill Daly’s apologies to fans here, or Ryan Miller’s sympathies here. On the surface, then, it would appear that each side understands how we fans feel, and what is at stake . . .
. . . but if that was the case, wouldn’t this lockout be over already? If you listen to the experts – for example, Jesse Spector of The Sporting News saying via Twitter, ”Even after writing my column on the latest NHL-NHLPA breakdown, I cant get over what a fustercluck this is” – the players and the owners are not so far apart that a deal cannot be reached. As a matter of fact, most people are amazed that we have even gotten to this point; namely, a lockout with zero reason to exist. With so many chances to get a deal done, and with so little conflict to resolve, wouldn’t it appear that the players and owners who fully understood how wrong and misguided this lockout is would have put the finishing touches on a new CBA months ago? I mean, that’s a no-brainer, isn’t it?
All of which leads us to a painfully obvious truth, that only gets more painful as the lockout drags on: the prime movers involved in the current NHL lockout either don’t know, or don’t care, how much they are damaging the sport we love.
Theoretically, it is possible that the players and owners just don’t get how destructive their behavior is. They know it’s bad, and they know people are not happy, but perhaps these skilled athletes and savvy businessmen lack the cognitive capabilities required to fully realize the weight of their decisions. My two year-old knows that when he hits me, it is bad; what he doesn’t realize is that when he hits me, it hurts like hell, because he lacks the ability to judge exactly how badly he has hurt me. I suppose the same could be said of the bozos battling each other in the NHL right now . . .
. . . but more than likely, that would be untrue, which forces me to arrive at the conclusion that the men involved in this debacle know damn well that under normal circumstances, this would be no way to run a business. They know, and they don’t care – because they don’t believe we’ll be able to hold a grudge once the NHL is back under. Maybe the recent NFL and NBA lockouts have deluded the NHL into thinking its fans will return to the sport as quickly as football and basketball fans returned to their sports. After all, they really are the only hockey game in town, so even though we fans will all grumble about how we can’t believe they did it again, our anger will quickly transform into relief, and we will go right back to supporting our teams in the same capacity we used before the lockout occurred. Remember, folks: to the NHL, we’re just cattle. We will be herded back into the mob.
Perhaps it’s time for the NHL to listen to guys like these, then:
The guys behind the Just Drop It campaign are just one example of the true state of the NHL fan: pissed off, tired of being disrespected, and ready to take action. I honestly feel that the NHL is guilty of underestimating its fan base. Sure, other sports leagues have experienced lockouts, and having watched those leagues suffer little, if any, fan backlash, the NHL is probably saying, “Yeah, we know we’re pissing off a lot of people, but who are they kidding? They’ll be back in no time.” What the NHL seems to be neglecting, though, is the fact that fans have already endured two recent lockouts, and the loss of an entire season. Fans ran out of patience pretty quickly this time around, and the longer the lockout goes on, the more permanent the damages will be. I don’t get the sense that the people committing to the pledge found on the Just Drop It Facebook page are just letting off steam; they are demonstrating a level of fan anger that has never been seen in professional sports. This is an unprecedented turn of events, and I fear (or is it Fehr?) the NHL is going to be stunned once it discovers that it pushed its fans too far.
The world as we know it may not be ending this year, but the world of NHL hockey may be irreparably damaged if the 2012-2013 season is lost. It’s the biggest game of chicken ever played, and the NHL is guilty of severely underestimating its combatants. Tick tick tick, guys. Your time to just drop this is running out.