My NHL Boycott / Fan Free Agency

by New Music Michael on January 8 2013

We interrupt your regular music blog for a fairly lengthy sports tirade.

My initial gut reaction when I heard that the NHL lockout was finally over was a resounding “huh”. It was like a thud. Neither momentous, or excitement, or disappointment. Perhaps indifference. After careful consideration I’ve had to come up with two separate reasons.

The first is of course anger towards both the NHL owners, and the players. Most that know me know I sided with the players this go –around, but in the end, you’ve got a bunch of greedy billionaire owners, and a bunch of self-entitled millionaire players. Stuck in the middle are the fans, and the people that depend on the game for their livelihood. And in the end, they settled on a deal that could’ve been made during the summer instead of early January.

Now, I get that NONE of the “big four” pro sports care about their fans. I don’t agree with it, but it seems to be a truism. They’ll tell you different of course, especially right now, and a few people on both sides have come out and apologized to us, but in the end, they know we’ll all come back. So we’ve sort of been lost in the shuffle. They’ll be ever so happy to take our money, though. Directly or indirectly. It’s actually kind of weird, if any other business or industry treated their customers like this, they wouldn’t be in business very long.

What makes me even more irate though, is the people that are employed because of the NHL. Servers at sports bars. The concession workers. Hotel staff. Bus drivers. Taxi drivers. Admin staff in the team offices. Many of them undoubtedly live paycheque to paycheque, unlike the owners and players living in their mansions with pools filled with money (you know, like Scrooge McDuck’s). Who never gave a second thought to these individuals. How they’ve survived up until now with significantly reduced hours or tips, I don’t know. I probably don’t want to know, I’m sure some of the stories would break my heart.

So what am I going to do about it. The only thing I can do. There’s no way I can willingly force myself to a lifetime boycott of the NHL, but I certainly can for the rest of this year. Hell, I haven’t even really missed it so far this “season”. And we’re most of the way through our brutal winter on this cold frozen tundra we call the Alberta prairie. So, thanks to a bet between Dominic Abassi and Graeme Tait at Nanaimo’s 106.9 The Wolf, here are the rules.

I will restrain absolutely from:

  1. “actively engaging” in the watching of any NHL game during the 2012-13 regular season and playoffs;
  2. Willingly watching any and all highlights, checking scores, or listening to talk radio analysis of any games, teams, or the league in general;
  3. If there’s a social situation where a TV is not under my control, I will make every effort to avoid being exposed to said television.
  4. The wearing or purchase of any NHL merchandise; and
  5. Attending any NHL game live in person.

So there you have it.

Even after deciding upon that, I realized I was still damned angry. And it’s not at the NHL. It’s at the team I’ve supported since I was a teenager – the Edmonton Oilers. Hell, team is being overly kind in this case – let’s go with organization.

The Oilers has a storied past, legendary in many ways. I remember attending playoff games (yes, it has happened) here in Edmonton where the team was actually favored to win. And did. Not just a game. But a series. The Stanley Cup in fact. And I participated in a number of après-Cup celebrations on Jasper Avenue.

But somewhere, somehow, they lost their way, and have seemingly accepted a losing mentality, devolving into what I consider a third-class organization. They haven’t had a strategic long-term plan to NOT finish near-last in the league for some time. Their management apparently blames the coaches, or the players, for these failures, when in fact it’s their job to move the organization forward – and have abjectly failed at that for the last ten years (you can disagree, but qualifying for the playoffs only twice in those ten years is about as much as a failure as one could measure). Tambellini and Lowe, among others, should’ve been replaced a long time ago. The “old boys club” is in a sorry state.

Sure they have some great young talent. But I think we all know some of them will pan out. Some of them won’t. And somewhere along the way they’ll either lose them to free agency. Or the injury bug will hit one and he’ll manage to only play partial-seasons for a number of years (I already have this one pegged). Or the team and the local media will decide one of them is a bad egg and lambaste them publicly until they have to leave. And then, when players do leave, the way this organization (and the mainstream media whom they in effect ‘control’) treats them is downright shameful, and disrespectful to such a degree I’m surprised anyone wants to play here.

Then of course we have a greed-monger of an owner who seems hellbent on holding the entire city out for ransom, trying to get an arena built for his privately-owned team for what amounts to next to nothing in the long run.I can’t forgive that type of greed. Ever. I’ve never been so angry at a single person in a very long time.

( For the record, I do believe the city needs a new arena. I’m even in support of SOME public funds going towards it – even 100% of it if the city also retains 100% of the revenue streams. But NOT this deal. Likely NOT even this owner at this point )

And so, with this diatribe, I officially declare free agency from being a fan of the Edmonton Oilers. It was a nice run. Well, the early bit, certainly not the last few years. By the time the league starts up in the fall of 2013, I’ll have chosen a new team to cheer for. I don’t know who. I don’t even know how I’ll decide.

PS – Calgary and Vancouver need not apply.

We now return you to your regular music blog. Thank you for your patience.

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