I'm a fan of the Tampa Bay Lightning franchise, that's what's keeping me around during the 2012-13 NHL lockout. My team is idled, but the devotion to the club over the years and promise or things to come with the team that's been assembled by general manager Steve Yzerman gives me every reason to stick around.
Yet I don't know if my loyalty to the team can survive the latest brinkmanship ploy from the National Hockey League.
What would be the effect on your allegiance to the Lightning, or to the NHL in general, if every player was suddenly made a free agent, their contracts terminated by the league? Think about that for a minute, every player on the Bolts suddenly had their contracts voided; every member of the active roster, plus the prospects under contract and playing for the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL? How would you feel if you knew, going forward, you might not have Steven Stamkos playing for the Bolts when NHL hockey resumes, or Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, Victor Hedman, Teddy Purcell? Having the promise of the future with the likes of Cory Conacher, Tyler Johnson, Mark Barberio and so on, and so forth, taken away?
I fully expect some fans to start cherry-picking who they'd keep and who they'd get rid of, thinking their opinion suddenly appends the fact everyone on the team would be free to sign with the 29 other franchises. This question isn't who would you keep? it's How would you react?
The NHL and NHLPA have both wandered into a legal morass that doesn't just put into jeopardy the 2012-13 NHL season, but the very future of the NHL as we know it. One part of the legal filing from Friday was language that requests the termination of all existing contracts.
Every. Single. One.
Oh, I can see some excitement at the prospect from fantasy sports fans - this would be the real world chance to build a fantasy team at all levels! Star players at every position would be open season for contracts, and consistently underachieving teams would suddenly have a chance to right the ship from top to bottom!
.,..And suddenly tank the teams that have been involved in a stable, responsible building process and have been setting things up for the long-haul
(For more on the lockout and the current state of things, head over to Defending Big D to read up on their take on the situation)
You may be more loyal to the brand and the sport than you are to the individual players; it's certainly not rare to find someone of that variety. It's also not rare to find someone who thinks the league needs to be blown up to save it - which this maneuver would be doing. It's questionable, however, if the league would actually see more financial stability through the move after the damage done by way of implementing such a radical maneuver.
The NHL's brand is in the tank. That's no surprise, as the most popular players this season are Gary Bettman, Bill Daly, the Fehr Brothers and other boardroom jockeys. Instead of these guys being stars on ice, they're stars because the game has been put on ice.
I just can't tolerate the idea of every roster being erased, and a grand re-alignment of talent being brought to pass. Perhaps that language was inserted into the legal filing with the idea the filing would be rescinded before matters were ever taken up in court (and, perhaps, a resolution to the 2012-13 CBA impasse would have occurred.
Or it's just another example of how out-of-touch the NHL is, while trying to put the league "right" with the strongest aggression possible to put players in their place - as subordinates.
But by using the philosophy of destroying the village in order to save it, you still destroy the village. Loyalty to individual brands and franchises may let the National Hockey League rise from its own ashes, but at a grand cost to the fans and the sport.