Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Why I don't miss the NHL

This is really more of a comment on PJ's post, but a little too long for that, so it goes here.

Living in Australia, I miss football, college and pros. Baseball and basketball, too. I don't miss hockey. Even going back to my years in South Carolina, where it could be hard to find on TV, even with the Hurricanes up the road, I didn't really miss it.

I used to be a big hockey fan: I went to the games and even played. I taped every game of the 1999 Finals, rushing home from a friend's house to change tapes when Game 6 went on and on and on.

I even played fantasy hockey--how lame is that?

But I don't care about it anymore. I still closely follow the other sports, even following an ESPN Gamecast on the computer sometimes for big games. I get highlights and read all the articles. But I can't remember the last time I read something about a hockey game. I'm actually more interested in articles detailing the NHL's demise: conspiracy theories about Bettman sabotage, neutral zone trap and left wing lock defenses, lockouts, bad TV deals, overexpansion. The list is endless, and I find it all very entertaining. The game itself, not so much.

Or more specifically, the NHL. I still like the game of hockey--I have lost interest in the League's version of it.

For me personally, it wasn't the defensive play. I like good defense. I also understand the general public likes goals, but for me, that wasn't the killer. A little more room to let the skilled players work would be nice, but it's not the deal breaker for me.

No, what did it for me was a series of other events and realizations starting in 2000. I started to slip when ticket prices went through the roof. After the Stanley Cup, the Stars priced me out of attending games anymore. After going to several games a year in previous seasons, I have only been to one since, and that was as a guest in a luxury suite. Even then, I was turned off by an employee who demanded I put my camera away and a poor response from the club when I contacted them the next day about the incident. Customer service, NHL.

Then came the lockout. I've come back after work stoppages in other sports, including the '94 lockout in hockey. But when they canceled the whole season in '04-'05, I was disgusted. I have no sympathy for owners who can't manage their own checkbook. Worse yet, as the year wore on I discovered I didn't really miss the NHL on the sports calendar. It overlaps almost exactly with basketball, plus football for the first half and baseball at the end. Who needs hockey? And when they started again, it just felt so amateur. The players were rusty, the TV coverage, when you could find it, was a joke, and there was all kinds of talk about gimmicky rule changes. Is this a pro league or what?

If I had moved away in the heyday of the mid nineties, I might be missing hockey. But after all this mess the past few years, I don't.

Rus says he's the sports fan hockey needs to get, and he's right. But I can do him one better: I'm the fan they had but lost.


patrick said...

NHL is HORRIBLE! Glad you've seen the light and left it in the past.

Chris said...

Glad to see you have migrated over here, Patrick. Just to clarify: I still love hockey, but the League is killing the game.

PJ said...

If you could see the game today, you'd see some of the best hockey we've seen in years. The NHL is coming around. Give it another shot.