Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Publish Day - Hockey Silliness

As many of you may know, the National Hockey League, the major professional hockey league in North America, is in the midst of yet another labor dispute. This time out, the owners have locked the players out because the players refuse to accept a salary cap.

Seeing as the sporting world typically lacks anything remotely approaching perspective, I thought I'd try to inject some into the debate through my just-published column, NHL labour tiff lacks perspective.

Interestingly, if you click on the league and players' association sites, you'd swear by reading them that nothing is amiss.

More importantly, the word doofus managed to make it into print. Cool!
NHL labour tiff lacks perspective
Published September 22, 2004
The London Free Press

I know it isn’t politically correct for a Canadian to dislike hockey, but these days, I truly wish the sport didn’t exist.

National Hockey League players and team owners have succeeded in poisoning their sport and compromising its future.

Sadly, they’ve taken down thousands of regular Canadians in the process. Zamboni drivers, concession staff, and restaurant workers are either already out of work, or soon will be. It’s not their fault the owners and players are too selfish to realize the damage caused by their greedy game of brinkmanship.

They don’t seem to grasp that they are partners in the business of entertainment. By pursuing a destructively adversarial relationship, they risk killing the goose that has been laying golden eggs for generations.

A little perspective is in order, because both sides clearly lack any. Hockey lives in a far more competitive world today than it did when there were only six teams in the league, two black-and-white channels on television and no computers beyond the monsters that sat in the basement of your bank's headquarters.

Kids today, the sport's future generation of fans, are busier today than their parents ever were. They shuttle between judo, soccer, and music lessons after school. Take away hockey and their time will easily be occupied by something else. NHL leadership should be lying awake at nights worried that these kids will never come back.

Dr. Glenn Rowe, who teaches strategic leadership at the University of Western Ontario’s Ivey School of Business, says compared to other sports, hockey is at higher risk due to declining fan interest and reduced revenue. The Wall Street Journal reports regular season hockey telecasts routinely draw fewer viewers than bowling, arena football, and poker.

“Hockey fans are very loyal, but there’s not a lot of them,” said Rowe. “Something has to give.”

The central issue is a proposed salary cap to prevent spiraling salaries and ensure greater team competitiveness and financial viability. Other leagues have successfully implemented caps, and they have thrived as a result. The National Football League, Major League Baseball and the National Basketball League spend, respectively, 64, 63, and 58 percent of total revenues on player salaries. The capless NHL, with lower viewership and revenue than all of them, is up at around 75 percent.

Rowe says the players may need a reminder of who pays their salary.

“Here you have players asking average fans to spend even more money so they can get richer,” he said. “Is this a realistic expectation on the part of the players? I don’t think so.”

In the overall scheme of things, hockey matters about as much on the celestial scale as a McDonald's Happy Meal and an empty Bic pen. Unbelievably overpaid "stars" blather on about the significance of their contributions to the world while the true heroes of our time are shut out of media coverage

Still, we continue to reward them by dropping hundreds of dollars at a shot to watch them play. Then we pay even more to wear their logos on our behinds and on gas-sucking flags that we hang off of our cars to show our undying devotion. I once even worked with someone who wore his favorite team's logo in the corner of his eyeglasses. I mean, come on people, get a grip!

I’m tired of the games surrounding this game. Life is more important than hockey. If we could first find jobs for all the regular employees, I'd be happy to have the entire league implode. It would allow the rest of us to get on with the business of appreciating true contributions to the advancement of humankind - as opposed to which cash-worshipping, classless doofus managed to get the puck into the net more often.

If I'm really that crazed about watching what should be a pure sport, I'll head down to the local rink this winter and watch kids playing because they simply love the game.

Carmi Levy ( is a London freelance writer. His column appears every other Wednesday.



Trillian said...

Great column. Congrats on using the word "doofus" insertion. Well-placed.

carmilevy said...

Thanks! I really enjoyed writing this one. It really helped to have the blog to help form and shape the idea into its final form.