We won't be seeing anything like this any time soon. - Patrick McDermott
The NHL may have lost the Winter Classic but it doesn't mean as much as you might think.
I bet you're getting sick and tired of these lockout posts. I know I am. I'm sick and tired of the sheer stupidity of two groups of reasonably smart people being unable to even get into the same room with each other, despite their vested interest in doing business together
And I don't think I'm the only one. Yesterday's announcement that January's Winter Classic in Michigan has been canceled (or postponed or transmogrified or whatever the hell they're doing to it) generated a buttload of apathy on Twitter. Partly that's because we all kind of expected it to happen. There were even very strong rumors earlier in the week that the cancellation had already happened, and a lot of people got their venting done then. But mostly it's because we're all just so very tired of this.
I've been a good soldier, so far. I've invested my emotions in the boys in Syracuse in lieu of the NHL guys. I've followed Pekka Rinne to Minsk--in a virtual sense, anyway. But even I'm getting tired and frustrated. And bored. Mostly bored. Because this kind of unending drama is really boring to live with.
Honestly, I just can't make myself care about the Winter Classic. But then, I never was all that interested in a game between a crappy team I don't care about (the Maple Leafs) and a good team I don't want to see win (the Red Wings). I definitely haven't been looking forward to the cloud of smug that would hang over these two cities for the duration. And I don't get HBO (thus, no HBO 24/7 The Road To The Winter Classic).
I never have watched the thing. The Winter Classic may be the NHL's best spectacle, but I'd still have to listen to Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury. I mean, really. Who willingly puts themselves through that kind of torture for a game that means no more and no less than any other regular-season game?
So, yeah, I don't particularly care. I can understand why people who were going to be there--people with tickets and reservations and plans and things--would be impacted. NBC, the network that bought into Bettman's sales pitch last year, ought to be mad as hell, and they ought to be placing several strongly-worded phone calls right about now.
And as for all of the "this means there'll be no NHL hockey this year" pronouncements? Well, maybe so. It certainly says that the league is at best uncertain about the prospect of games being played by the end of December. It means that they don't see--or perhaps more significantly, they want to be perceived as not seeing--a deal being done right away. But isn't that where we already were? Didn't we already know that games in the next month or so were highly unlikely?
It seems like regardless of how much money the Winter Classic event brings in, the loss of this revenue doesn't by itself mean the end of negotiations. There are reasons to question whether this could act on both sides as a spur instead of a brake. In fact, now that the sponsors have real losses on the table, there may be more pressure to make progress. That's hard to say, given the state of our knowledge about what's really going on.
Personally, I'm far more concerned with the sense of insult emanating from both sides. Everything, every message, every communication, is getting filtered through this distorting emotional field. They can't talk about the details because they're so wrapped up in how wronged they've been. It all gets added to the list. So instead of listening, everyone (fans and media included) are rehearsing their grievances.
As much as all of that is human nature, and as much as there are real injuries being suffered, it still gets in the way. And it's that inability to step outside their own emotions that is likely to cost the season. The loss of the revenue from the Winter Classic is secondary and can be overcome, but only if calmer heads prevail.
It's true, I think, that many fans will be back whenever NHL hockey starts up again. I don't even think that's necessarily a bad thing. But it also seems to be likely that even the most patient of fans and sponsors are becoming less attached to this league than they have been. It will be much easier, even for us die-hards, to let go of all things NHL if someone doesn't start to act like a grown-up here.