As of two days ago the NHL players are officially locked out. But don’t worry hockey fans, we are here for you. Introducing the first installment of the NHL lockout survival guide, known affectionately as “Everybody hates you, get used to it.”
First off, let me explain something: nobody cares about you, the hockey fan. They, the owners and players, know you are coming back once this is settled, and don’t lie to yourself, they’re right. The only person they’re worried about is the mythical creature known as the casual sports fan. Who are these people? They watch the Super Bowl, maybe the World Series, some New Year’s bowl games, March Madness, the NBA in the playoffs and on Christmas; marquee events. You know what the casual sports fan doesn’t watch? Niche sports. Sadly for you, friends, hockey is a niche sport.
Living in Canada you forget that hockey isn’t exactly the most popular sport worldwide. If the four major professional sports leagues were a group of trust fund girlfriends the NHL would be the one whose father lost all his money; she doesn’t fit in anymore but it’s just too awkward to kick her out of the group.
So who should you blame for this mess, the owners? After all, they are the ones locking the doors. They’re losing money, and this is unacceptable. Why? We’re not clear on that, apparently you own sports franchises to make money these days, rather than win championships. The best owners in sports are the Steinbrenners, the Cubans, the Prokorhovs; the people who want to win, and damn the expense. Want to make money on your franchise? Sell it; don’t squeeze your work force (unless you’re Walmart, than strangle those bastards until they’ve got nothing left (so for about two to three minutes)).
But how much of a squeeze is it, if you’re already a millionaire? I’ve heard so many people calling the players selfish millionaires, et cetera. Answer this hypothetical: you are a professional athlete, you sign your multi-million dollar contract, then three years later someone tries to tell you it’s now worth 20% less than it previously was. How happy would you be? Are you just doing to bend over? I will never understand how these owners can cry, “There’s too many bad contracts!” when they’re the ones putting their signatures on the dotted lines of the contracts.
The problem for the players, though, is that they clearly are not going to win. They have absolutely zero leverage, as the owners have already made it perfectly clear that they do not care one bit if this season is lost. The same thing happened in the NBA last season, until the players eventually realized that a missed season would not improve their bargaining position and they signed a new CBA, one which is considered a “win” for the owners. Sadly for hockey players, they have even less leverage than their NBA counterparts, which is a league of stars, whereas the NHL is a league of laundry (i.e. you cheer for the jersey). Besides Sidney Crosby the NHL has very few stars that are marketable across America. I don’t even want to guess who number two is, Ryan Miller? Compared to football, baseball and basketball players (hell, even Jon Jones is a more marketable star, and the UFC was barely a blip five years ago), hockey players just aren’t sexy for advertisers (must be all the missing teeth).
So what can you, the abused spouses of the NHL, do? Last season, during the dregs of the NBA lockout, Grantland.com’s Bill Simmons took to Twitter and began the #unfollowNBA movement; a purging of all basketball players, writers, insiders and teams from your social media timelines. They want to lock us out? Well until they’re finished, let’s let them, and leave them alone to bicker. No reading faux-hockey previews, or line-up predictions, or fantasy draft projections (and please, if you’re still writing those, I implore you, re-evaluate your life), or even lockout updates. Forget it all, give them the amount of time they’re giving you, and un-follow the NHL and its players.