Sunday, January 06, 2013

NHL lockout ends. The sheep return. Heroes don't.

I grew up in Montreal, so as you can imagine I've had the Canadiens practically encoded in the particular strand of my DNA that's reserved for hockey fandom. As a kid, I was lucky to attend a whole lot of games at the storied Forum, and proudly wore whatever clothes I could find that carried the logo. Sorry, Toronto Maple Leafs, you'll just never do it for me.

So I followed the just-ended NHL lockout with a great deal of interest not because I particularly wanted one side or the other to "win", but because I worried about the scads of other young kids out there wearing their own logo-clad clothes and wondering if their ice-bound heroes should really be their heroes after all. Or whether there would be logo-clad kids in future at all.

And as the league gets ready to play a shortened season, I worry that that sense of admiration has been, to a certain extent, lost. That the love of the sport has irrevocably been compromised by the greed of those who think being a hero is a right and not a privilege. Who think fans like the childhood me will continue to return after each and every labor dispute.

Inevitably, most of the tried and true fans will return. Like the sheep that they are, they're already falling all over themselves with glee that hockey is almost back, cash in hand, ready to pay whatever it takes to once again get inside and see their skating heroes live. Or watch them on TV. Or buy the merchandise. Or buy the advertisers' merchandise.

But what about those who haven't had a chance to become sheep in the first place? The kids who watch or play the game because they love it. Who will never understand why the two sides in this megabuck mess couldn't simply play the game while the lawyers negotiated off-ice. Who will never appreciate the motivations of two sides that have repeatedly come this close to killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

Maybe these potential fans are slowly coming to the realization that hockey is a game that should be played for the love of it, and that maybe it's time to question whether those who play it deserve to be deemed heroes.

Maybe it isn't just the kids, either. Maybe the communities that have paid for arenas to pad billionaire-owner and millionaire-player pockets are starting to do the math and are realizing it simply no longer adds up. Maybe the businesses like nearby restaurants and suppliers whose workaday owners and employees watched their income evaporate through no fault of their own may be looking for another wagon to hitch up to.

Indeed, maybe it's no longer the NHL's birthright to carry that mantel for the next generation. And maybe it's time to question what a hero really is, and whether such an individual - player or owner or league or union rep - would willingly allow such a storied cultural treasure to become so tarnished in the first place.

Your turn: Thoughts?


darlin said...

Carmi thanks for this update, I don't follow the news so this is news to me that the lockout has ended. I think that it's pathetic that only the middle and upper-class get to go to the games, they are so expensive that some children, as well as adults, can't even afford to walk through the doors of the arena, let alone have a beverage or snack at the game. I think that hockey has turned into nothing more than yet another money making venue with overpaid players as well as overstuffed owners... this lockout has left me disappointed and discouraged and the only way you're going to see me back at a game is if I win tickets or someone gives them to me. I refuse to pay for an overpriced night out and I once was a diehard Oilers fan. If I had to pick a team it still would be my Oilers, but I'm sure not going out of my way to contribute to the fat getting fatter!

You're right, the heroes didn't return!

Have a wonderful week and thanks again for this update!

Tabor said...

I am not into you can tell from my dull blog...thus I knew nothing about any of this. But you made my day as I read this to my husband and he has a new appreciation for blogging as he said...."Wow, the lockout ended?" You have given me new respect in my husband's eyes.

Kelsea said...

This is a great post. Especially when you said, "That the love of the sport has irrevocably been compromised by the greed of those who think being a hero is a right and not a privilege".Exactly. I loved hockey. Not even for a specific team (though I certainly have my favorites) but because I love watching the sport. But, like others, this lockout has left me very disappointed. Have they all forgotten why they wanted to play hockey in the first place? While I may still watch a game here and there on tv, it won't be the same. And I certainly won't be as excited for my teams as I was before.