Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Will the NHL Ever Repair Its Reputation?

Article written by Dave Thomas - Guest Poster
As hockey rinks around the NHL opened up this week in anticipation of this Saturday’s (Jan. 19) season openers, many questions remain regarding the abbreviated 2012-13 campaign.

Among the questions to ponder:

Jonathan Toews Chicago Blackhawks NHL 8x10 Photograph with 2010 Stanley Cup Trophy* Will the NHL have a legitimate season playing less than 50 games or will the eventual champion have an asterisk next to its name in the record books?
* With the rush to get players back in the game, along with a shortened training camp, will injuries become a major player over the next few months?
* Will attendance and television ratings, especially in some of the markets that were already struggling, be good, average or poor?
* Lastly, will the NHL ever truly repair its reputation when all is said and done?

The last question may be the toughest to answer, though owners, players, and observers for that matter may get a hint or two sooner rather than later.

While a pair of labor disputes halted play in 1994-95 and 2004-05, this one may have been the worst.

Keep in mind that the two previous labor stoppages were not impacted like this one was by social media. Fans and those who diss the NHL on a regular basis took full aim at the sport this time around. As the NHL came up against its own self-imposed deadline of starting the season no later than around the middle of January, social media lit up in recent weeks.

Both sides (players and owners) used social media to try and plead their case to the fans, even in some cases to the casual observer of the sport. As in most labor battles, it doesn’t appear either side came out smelling like roses.

As someone who has followed the NHL since childhood in the mid-1970’s, I’m instituting my own “lockout” over the next six months, not batting an eye towards the sport I enjoy watching.

My belief all along in any professional sports impasse is that if you say and are expected to play a full season, you do just that. Sorry, but playing 48 games or so doesn’t cut it for me. Furthermore, I feel for all the workers at arenas, etc. who lost major dollars while the greedy owners and players showed up to meetings in their expensive suits and cars, haggling over how many more millions they should be getting.

BOTH sides were at fault for damaging this season. The question remains, is the damage to their reputation permanent or will it pass over time?

I can easily watch the NBA these next few months to satisfy my sports craving, waiting until next October to rejoin the NHL as a fan.

Guys, I know my opinion and my measly dollars matter little to you, so I don’t expect you to lose sleep over losing me as a fan temporarily.

What you should worry about is how many more people like me there are out there, especially those who will not be back next October or if ever for that matter.

About the author: With 23 years of experience as a writer, Dave covers a wide array of business topics.

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