“The search for a scapegoat is the easiest of all hunting expeditions.” Dwight D. Eisenhower
With the general election coming up this Tuesday, leave it to the 34th President of the United States to hit the nail right on the head.
As if the NHL lockout hasn't already derailed a sport that was on the outer fringes of popularity, Friday's inevitable and disappointing announcement—the cancellation of the Winter Classic—has taken hockey even further off the radar screen.
This was to be the league's seminal regular-season event.
This was when the entire sports world could see how incredible this brutal-but-beautiful sport could really be.
This was when the casual fan could become a fan for life.
A world-record crowd of 115,000 was expected.
Not so much.
And this is simply ridiculous.
So who's to blame for this shameful decision?
As President Eisenhower said, this will be an easy hunting expedition.
First, the owners.
Are they ignorant and egotistical enough to think that the game could endure losing out on this showcase event? The Winter Classic was becoming a ritual of sorts. A game that took the sport back to its outdoor roots—and took millions of fans throughout the world along for the ride. And what a wonderful ride it has been.
Perhaps Gary Bettman, the owner's front man and league Commissioner, doesn't care that his sport is off the air, particularly in light of the NHL signing a 10-year, $2 billion agreement with NBC just last year, to televise its games. Perhaps he should have told owners like Craig Leipold not to hand out nearly $200 million worth of contracts to Zach Parise and Ryan Suter—only to complain later on that player salaries were getting out of hand. Pretty wild, wouldn't you say?
Now, for the players.
Led by hardliner Donald Fehr, the league's rank and file have stuck to their proverbial guns. That's a big reason we're stuck without the Winter Classic. How much is enough? Don't the players already make more money than most people could ever dream of? Don't they have all the perks a person could ask for and then some? Are they really entitled to 50 percent of the NHL's $3.5 billion in revenues? Just like the owners, their egos and inflexibility have helped put the sport in the penalty box. The sport they supposedly love so much.
‘‘It’s obviously very sad,’’ Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall told the Associated Press. ‘‘The Winter Classic is one of the highlights of the year, and this is something everyone has been looking to because playing at the Big House would've been something very special.’’
Former players also understand the significance of losing the Winter Classic.
Maple Leafs legend Wendel Clark was looking forward to resuming his personal rivalry with some old Red Wings foes from the time the two teams were in the Norris Division. "Losing the game is disappointing, but in the big picture, it’s hockey you want back,” said Clark.
Former Leafs defenseman Mike Pelyk said,
It’s a big loss for the NHL, the players. The sport has grown so much in the last 10 years. This whole thought of lockout it does tarnish the game. You just hope it gets solved quickly. Life will go on. Nobody will get 100 per cent of what they want, but at the end of the day, what you like to see is turn on the TV and there’s a hockey game.
Sorry Mike, there won't be a game. And both the owners and the players must split the responsibility for it. If they can't split the revenue, it really is the right thing to do.
So here we are. No NHL games through November. No Winter Classic. No way this is right.
"We know our fans were excited to see this historic Original Six outdoor encounter in a couple of months and we are disappointed for them,” said Tom Anselmi, president of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.
Let me know your thoughts.