Wednesday, July 13, 2005

If media outlets are to be believed, the NHL lockout is finally over. I consider it to be true because a local cable TV show just came by the store and asked me to do a little stand-up on how likely fans would be to come back and how the lockout had affected collectibles and memorabilia business.

In the Toronto area and in Canada, I don't think the lockout will have any lasting effect. From what I've learned since I moved here, hockey is more important to Canadians than baseball is to Americans. It's not just a game -- it's a style of life, something not learned but almost instinctual. You can find tons of people in the U.S. who don't know a squeeze play from squeezing the Charmin, but even a 12-year-old Canadian girl can wax elequently against the neutral-zone trap.

In the United States, however, I'm not sure hockey will be able to recover. It's not like the lockout put the NHL into intensive care -- it was there already. It's just that Americans really don't give a crap about the game. We don't grow up playing it, it's difficult to follow the puck if you don't have knowledge of the game and the game isn't urban. Markets like Detroit, Boston and New York will not have any trouble finding fans to fill seats. It's burgs like Nashville, Phoenix and Tampa Bay that will struggle mightily to regain the tenuous grasp they had on season-ticket holders. Those are towns that shouldn't have had NHL franchises to begin with, and now the collective-bargaining agreement is designed to prop those clubs up at the expenses of true hockey hotbeds. Oh, well ... when 6-8 teams do finally end up folding, that (along with two management-started work stoppages) will be commissioner Gary Bettman's legacy.

I'm pretty geeked for business to pick up here. Fans have been wandering in talking about the agreement, and they've been quietly, almost shamefully excited for a couple of months. I'm more excited, though, to finally be able to hear the "Hockey Night in Canada" theme song blaring out of my 61-inch high-definition TV. So's my wife -- and that's one way I know I married the right woman.

2 comments:

ufez said...

I'm not sure if Dallas counts as a 'hockey-town' or not, but they've never had a problem selling seats. They've already announced that the cheap seats for Stars games this year will begin at $10, a huge difference from the old standard of a $22 minimum. I guess we'll see how long it lasts, but it may make me forego the year of boycott I was planning on with the NHL.

btw, glad to see you blogging. I've always dug your writing style.

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