Operation Hat Trick was conceived as a fundraiser for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, and was played over the weekend at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Former Tampa Bay Lightning center Brad Richards was part of the game organizational efforts , as the city he plays for was savaged by the wrath of a perfect storm, decimating parts of the five boroughs as well as ripping apart the New Jersey shore.
Hockey has often risen to the occasion with regards to charity. Richards himself is a great example with his charitable work with children's cancer victims. So when an all-star caliber group of players from around the NHL (including the Lightning's Steven Stamkos) came together in Atlantic City over the weekend for the game... Well, it was almost business-as-usual for the sport. Hockey was being played with teams composed of some of the sports best.
Yeah, until the pettiness of the NHL lockout got in the way.
Here's a quote from a report yesterday on New York Rangers Blog, sourced anonymously, so take it with a mite of skepticism):
A source directly associated with NBC Sports has informed me that the NHL specifically requested to NBC that they not broadcast Operation Hat Trick. While it's not definite that NBC would have gone through with the broadcast, the NHL's intervention seems to have been enough to end all discussions of the possibility.
NBC-Universal, owned by Comcast which has direct ties to the NHL by way of Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider as well as its broadcast partnership with the league, was at the forefront of fundraising efforts for Hurricane Sandy, devoting an hour-long relief broadcast on November 2nd across it's spectrum of broadcast properties. The idea they may have picked up this game isn't farfetched, though one can remain skeptical about it. It wasn't a competition as so much a spectacle for the sake of raising money.
If this pettiness is true, it's not as if the NHL is guilty alone in this. It was noted before the lockout commenced that players for the Calgary Flames had opted out of a Flames related charity in a show of solidarity with the Players Association.
Charities - the organizations and people who depend on the money raised through efforts tied to the NHL - should not be made to suffer because of the ongoing labor dispute. If the NHL did push for NBC not to air the charity game, it's not just a PR blunder but a moral faux pas that suggests the value of business and an outstanding negotiation dispute outweighs the general public welfare.
The sport of hockey is bigger than a collective bargaining agreement, especially when it serves as a medium for giving during a time of need.
Yes, the broadcast likely would have been negative for ownership (they chose to lock out the players, after all)... But is exposing a viewing audience to a jeering crowd's anti-lockout and anti-Bettman chants a bigger PR blunders than the NHL itself looking heartless in the wake of Sandy?