By Brian Monzo
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It’s October. You can feel it in the air. It’s hockey season.
Normally I would be fired up. I’d be getting my season previews together, studying the rosters and watching videos from last year to get the vibe going.
Call this my “heel turn” if you want, but I am not sure that I could care any less about the start of the NHL season.
For years, I have been a shill for the National Hockey League. Anything they did, I supported it. I went to the NHL store. I bought hats. I got GameCenter LIVE. I watched the NHL Network and thought it was the greatest thing ever.
Not anymore. And at least not for a while.
I will start this with two things:
1) I know it’s a business, and companies need to make money. I get that.
2) I don’t hide the fact that I am a Rangers fan. I will still watch the games and cheer when they score. The game and the team I still care about.
For a while now I’ve noticed the days passing by, and we’ve grown closer to the start of the NHL season and closer to the start of the Rangers’ season. But I haven’t been excited. In fact, I’ve kind of dreaded it.
It started in the summer, when I wasn’t thinking much about hockey. I usually love the offseason, but I wasn’t into it. I told myself — and even tweeted that — starting on September 3 I would get back into NHL and New York Ranger mode. Those that follow me on Twitter, minus one night of ranting — I also had three glasses of scotch in me — know that I’ve rarely mentioned hockey.
Then last week, WFAN co-host Evan Roberts, who knows about my passion for hockey, asked if I was excited for the start of the season. I told him that, for some reason, I wasn’t. And I wasn’t sure why.
I came up with excuses like work, the NFL season and fantasy football. Maybe they were a small part of the reason. But the fact is that the NHL has officially sucked the passion out of the hardcore “hockey” fan.
I realized that the reason I loved the NHL all these years is because it was marketed to me, the hardcore hockey fan.
Most importantly, the NHL was about one thing and one thing only: hockey.
The NHL is now no longer about hockey; it’s about pretty much everything but hockey as I knew it.
Like I said, I know it’s a business, and a company that has had three work stoppages in under 20 years obviously has money issues. But that’s not MY problem.
The NHL was (and still is, despite brutal effort after brutal effort) the “fourth” sport in America. I liked it that way. The NHL was “mine,” in a weird way.
I started working at WFAN during the 2005 lockout. No one cared about the NHL lockout except me. When some minor bit of news spread — and probably didn’t make the updates here, because no one cared — people came to me for some sort of explanation or comment.
The NHL had its diehard fans, and it catered to the loyal fans.
We are secondary now.
Let’s start with this disaster of multiple outdoor games at stadiums. What an embarrassment that is. The Winter Classic concept was amazing. One outdoor game, on New Year’s Day, and there was nothing like it. Now, the league has to shove four games a year down our throats. Don’t forget that each outdoor game has it’s own logo and jersey, More merchandise for the fans to spend money on.
If you are unaware of the outdoor games — and each of their sponsors — just go to NHL.com. It’s smeared all over the website.
I am sure you have heard of Sidney Crosby. He is a great hockey player. If you don’t know who he is, just flip on the NHL Network or log onto NHL.com, because they will make sure to shove him in your face. The NHL obviously needs a face of the league, right? Also, you’ll never hear any of the NHL Network “talent” say a negative thing about Sid the Kid.
The league loves to force feed you its “stars,” but not it’s hard-hitting, grinding “hockey players.”
If you aren’t sure if there are any Canadian teams in the NHL, just pop on the NHL Network, because you”ll get breakdowns of each of those teams nonstop. According to them, Carey Price is the greatest goaltender ever.
However, if you are looking for NHL news in the offseason, you won’t find it on the NHL Network. Instead you will have replays of some awful playoff game that had less viewers than the WNBA All-Star Game. There is no offseason programming on the NHL Network. You may get something called “Oil Change,” a program dedicated to the rebuild of the Edmonton Oilers, who still continue to stink despite drafting first nearly every year.
Also, when the NHL was locked out last year, there was no coverage of it on the NHL Network. That’s just sad.
I also love the endless amount of promos for GameCenter LIVE — which gives fans the ability to watch games online — that the NHL Network runs between shows or on “commercial breaks.” Here is some breaking news: No casual fan will ever order GameCenter LIVE. Oh, by the way, local blackout restrictions apply, rendering it basically useless.
You know what else I don’t care about? Hockey Night in Canada. Is it OK that I said that? Can you deal with that?
The next abomination is this continued use of NHL players in the Winter Olympics. That’s another head shaker. I am all about national pride, but junior-level players are just fine.
The NHL’s endless self-promotion. Gotta love it.
Social media has been great for every sport, and pretty much everything in the world. Anything the NHL does on Twitter immediately annoys me.
Here is a tweet from earlier today:
Remember when winning the Stanley Cup was all that mattered?
Remember a good hockey fight?
This is hockey:
I miss the Stanley Cup Finals. Now, if you put that “S” in Finals, you’re not saying it correctly. It’s Stanley Cup Final. Trust me, I’ve been around people within the league who get annoyed if you say it wrong. I just wanted to slap them.
Let’s get to some of these moronic rule changes:
Hybrid icing. What a joke this is. This starts this year after a vote from teams. By definition, hybrid icing is when play is stopped immediately if the player on the opposing team reaches the face-off dot first, instead of skating all the way across the goal line to touch the puck. This type of icing is intended to reduce the number of collisions along the boards during “touch icing”, but it still allows the team that iced the puck to wave off the icing.
So a few guys break their legs and now we have to change the rules. It’s unfortunate to see players get hurt. You hate to see it and you hope it never happens. But that’s the risk of being a pro hockey player. It’s why I am not one, and why mostly everyone in the world is not one. It’s a privilege to play a pro sport. With that privilege comes the risk of injury. This dumb rule will now stop play too much and kill some offense. The chase for icing often leads to goal-scoring chances. This is amateur. Another brutal job.
You know fighting is going to be eliminated soon enough. Some people, who have never watched more then five minutes of a game, find it dumb and pointless. Gotta cater to those people. Meanwhile, screw the guy with an old-school Joey Kocur jersey.
Well, the season starts and it’s “Rivalry Week,” which is another made-up marketing technique intended to get people to watch. Speaking of rivals, you gotta love the Columbus Blue Jackets joining a division with the New York Rangers, New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils. The history between the Blue Jackets and Devils is … well, non-existent.
The NHL had it’s fans, but we weren’t good enough.
I am looking forward to watching the Stanley Cup Finals, though. Finals. Finals. Finals. I am also looking forward to the PR email I get saying that each of the Cup Finals games got a 2.1 rating.
But I don’t care about Crosby, Zdeno Chara or anyone on the Montreal Canadiens. In fact, I hope they go 0-82-0. That said, if they do go 0-82-0, we’d have to hear about that nonstop.
The National Hockey League is about everything but one thing: hockey.
I miss hockey. I don’t miss the NHL.
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