By CHRIS ZADOROZNY, Sports Editor
The NHL is finally back after their 113-day hiatus. The Red Wings are returning to the ice in Plymouth for training camp, and the diehards are going. Who wouldn’t though? It’s the Red Wings, one of the most reliable Detroit teams in the past 20 years.
I’m one of those die hard fans. I’m ready for these games to start. I’m ready to watch the sport I grew up playing, watching, and loving. For people like me, it’s like another Christmas.
Many of the sports fans though, aren’t diehards. The NHL really hurt their fanbase during this lockout, the league’s third since 1995.
Players went to Europe, Russia, the minor leagues and many other leagues around the world to keep in shape. They were smart to do so, as many of the so-called leaders here in North America were arguing over here on who should get more money.
Hockey isn’t a game that’s played for money. Yes, players get played a lot, certain ones play for just money, but most, most play for the passion of the game. They are the reason teams have fan-bases. Look at Detroit vs. Columbus.
Detroit has a huge fan base. Columbus, not so much. Big name players for Detroit include Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Niklas Kronwall and Jimmy Howard. As for Columbus, they had Rick Nash, their longest tenured player, but they traded him to the New York Rangers in the offseason. Now, off the top of my head, I can’t name one player, let alone a big name player.
The reason for the lockout was the owners wanted more money, even though the players rake in the fans to the arenas each and every night.
So, now that the NHL is back, who will go back to them like a boyfriend who screwed up goes back to his girlfriend? Certainly many fans are now gone, they won’t come back, and if they do, it won’t be for awhile. There are the fans that say they won’t come back, but they will.
Then, there are the diehards that are coming back regardless, because this is their life. How about the rest of the world though, how do they see the NHL? Probably like this. Have you ever watched the Christmas film, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer? There is a piece in there talking about The Island of Misfit Toys. That’s where the NHL is now, just another toy cast away because no one cares.
The NHL was once very popular from the early 1990s up until the 2004 lockout. After that lockout is when ESPN ended their agreement to broadcast games. As much as I like to hate on ESPN for biased coverage, doing so called sports-journalism that has been sketch of late, they are the leader in sports coverage.
The NHL is now on NBC, which is quite popular, but honestly, who watches sports on NBC other than Sunday Night Football and the Olympics? This latest blunder by the league’s owners and executives is going to give the NHL more of a bad reputation, even though they gained a lot back after the 2004 lockout.
When games start this weekend, will you watch? Should you watch? Heck, should you care? If you’re a regular fan who loves the game, the answer is NO. Go about your regular business like the NHL is still in a lockout.
If they expect to earn the regular fans back, they are going to need to do a lot to gain their trust, their love, and hell, even their money. Good luck to the NHL on earning at least a shred of decency and trust back, you’re going to need it.