By Brad Kallet, WFAN.com
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Gary Bettman. Donald Fehr. Steve Fehr. Bill Daly. Players. Owners. Federal mediators.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
It’s Day 93 of the NHL lockout, and I’ve had just about enough of this fiasco, as I know many of you have as well.
Take a look at the first line of this column again. Say it to yourself three consecutive times as if it’s a mantra. It’s nothing short of vomit-inducing.
I am not a diehard hockey fan — in fact, I’m far from it. I’m a casual fan at best. I’ve always been a baseball guy and a tennis guy, with some football mixed into the stew.
But as a sports fan, I can appreciate competition at its highest level. And last season, when both the Rangers and the Devils were fighting and clawing their way to the Stanley Cup Finals, I couldn’t help but get into the excitement of it all. You could feel the intensity unfolding in front of your eyes, and it was clear that these hard-nosed warriors were wearing their hearts on their sleeves every second of every game.
It was impossible not to admire.
I never had a hockey team, and I didn’t jump on the bandwagon for either the Devils or the Rangers as they ascended through each round of the postseason tournament. I felt little to no connection with either team, but still I found myself at local Manhattan bars and pubs night after night, watching the games as diehards packed the establishment to the brim. All of a sudden New York became a hockey town, and though I didn’t have an emotional investment in the outcomes of the games, the energy of the fans was contagious.
It was thrilling to watch and be a part of, and though I hadn’t followed hockey in years, I was instantly hooked. For the first time in my existence, I was actually looking forward to hockey returning the following season.
Well hockey never came — and it still hasn’t come — as billionaires continue to bargain, negotiate and argue with millionaires.
And I can proudly tell you this: If and when NHL players do return to the ice, I most certainly won’t be watching.
Nothing to watch on TV but a hockey game? I think I’ll read a book. Free tickets to watch the Rangers play at the world’s most favorite arena? I think I’ll pass and watch a movie. Merchandise? Well I’ve never purchased a hockey jersey before, but now I’d be hard-pressed to accept one even if I were wearing nothing but a pair of boxer shorts in the middle of Times Square in January.
I’m just so turned off by the greed, the unwillingness to cooperate, the lack of direction and the apathy toward the fans who live and die with every drop of the puck. And let’s not forget the employees of these hockey organizations and the local businesses that are negatively affected by this dire situation.
It’s disgraceful and it’s unfair, and I’m finished.
Clearly lockouts in major North American professional leagues are nothing new. We’ve also seen them in the NBA, the NFL and in Major League Baseball. But they rarely, if ever, drag out for this long of a period. We all remember what happened in 2004-05, when the entire NHL season was cancelled due to the lockout.
Anybody who has followed the lockout consistently knows that, despite all of the endless back-and-forth and meetings that haven’t gone anywhere — there is an excellent chance that hockey will return after the New Year. And when that happens, there’s no question that diehard fans around the country will scurry to the ticket windows like kids in a candy store to welcome their sport back.
And why shouldn’t they? I will completely understand where they are coming from, and as Billy Batts said in “Goodfellas,” I will say, “Salud!” to those fans.I will fully respect their decision. While I’m sure that they, too, feel exactly as I do in regard to the lockout, they can’t resist but have hockey in their life.
I can certainly appreciate that. If the situation were altered and there was no baseball for an extended lengh of time, I would still be at Citi Field to watch the Mets despite my bitterness and anger toward the powers that be.
But, to be blunt, I just don’t care enough about or like hockey enough to ignore the greed and the disrespect that has been on display from Bettman, the Fehrs and every other suit that has been involved in these proceedings.
The National Hockey League has lost me as a casual fan, and I know that I won’t be the only one — I won’t be the exception to the rule.
How many of us will be lost?
How many of you — regardless if you’re a diehard fan or a casual one — will boycott watching hockey when the NHL is up and running again? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below…