Leave it to me to make a great post about how I'm going to get back to blogging regularly only get sick right afterward, thus nixing that. Now that I'm mostly recovered, though, this is attempt number two.
Something I believe I mentioned among my excuses for a lack of blogging was a lack of things that I felt I wanted to write about or comment on. Well, in the last few days, there have been a multitude of stories that are intersting or infuriating enough for me to comment on, so I'm hoping I can get few good posts out in the nest few days.
Today, though, I have to start with something that's not political which dragged me back in the last 24 hours or so, namely the NHL lockout. Those readers who know me are aware of my affection for hockey and those who have read this blog (and are inexplicably patient enough to continue reading) for some time may recall some posts of mine about hockey. Needless to say, then, the lockout has been frustrating for me.
No, I don't religiously watch regular season, but I always enjoy catching what games I can, since I don't have the money for NHL Center Ice (the league TV pass). Just last year the NHL renegotiated its TV rights with ESPN and NBC, unfortunately providing for fewer televised games. At the very least I could count on ESPN to pick up the Avs-Wings games, but this year, of course, nothing.
And really, this lockout is ridiculous. Unless the NHL and NHLPA have their collective heads stuck in the ice, they're well aware that hockey has image problems in the United States, coupled with a sports press that relentlessly ignores it and overzealous expansion into dubious markets like Nashville, while leaving smaller but more dedicated markets like Winnipeg behind. There are also the concerns among many that the game has become too slow due to things such as neutral zone trapping (thank you, New Jersey Devils) and that there is not enough scoring because of the increased size of goalie equipment. So for a sport that barely manages to keep its head above water in the American sports world, a lockout cancelling the whole season is perhaps the worst thing it could do. It's disrespectful to everyone involved with the NHL and a spit in the face of the fans.
That said, I do sympathize with the owners in that salaries have gotten out of control and a salary cap seems perfectly reasonable. I get the impression that the players were not united behind the union's opposition to such a cap; many just want to play and the Europeans are getting to watch some good hockey this year at our expense. For a league that is struggling financially, I think capping salary growth, is an acceptable compromise. Both sides, though, have been incredibly stubborn. I think Bettman and the union have good intentions, but it's pure BS when they say they tried to resolve this early on and tried their best to avoid having to cancel the season. People were discussing the upcoming CBA (collective bargaining agreement) issues near the end of the 2002-03 season and all throughout 2003-04. They had a long time to attempt to resolve this, but neither side lifted a finger until the summer of 2004 and then when it was clear there were huge differences in positions, each side basically acquiesced to the lockout as a way to try and sweat the other side out. Stances solidifed after the September 15th deadline and zero progress was made in the few talks held between then and late January.
What increased the frustration here exponentially was the flurry of attempted deal-making in the last few days to try and save the season and avoid the dubious distinction of not awarding the Stanley Cup for the first year since 1919. I didn't expect much initially, but I was stunned to hear that the players union had accepted a salary cap in principle (after the owners gave up a stipulation linking salaries to revenues; now there's a foreign concept--compromise)yesterday and a last-ditch effort was underway. But of course, things bogged down again over the amount of the cap and positions stalemated yet again. Why am I reminded of trench warfare? And so the deadline came and went today and Bettman officially cancelled the 2004-05 season. Thanks a lot, guys.
If I devoted the proper amount of vindictiveness the NHL and NHLPA has earned for this behavior, I'd stop caring about hockey and not watch when it returns (hopefully). I can't do that, though. So despite the enmity the NHL has earned I will give it a pass, because I just want to see my beloved Avalanche take the ice again. Preferably before Peter Forsberg and Joe Sakic retire, please. In the meantime, at least the NCAA Frozen Four will be on ESPN.