To understand a hockey fan’s apathetic reaction today to what seems to be a resolution in the NHL owner and player impasse is to put yourself in the shoes of a grocery store clerk, a cross-country truck driver or a mail carrier.
They’re used to long hours, taking some abuse, struggling to get their honest day’s work in, and then being rewarded with little if any recognition.
And they go back and do it again.
(Perhaps any “hockey fan” in L.A. may not really understand much about this, especially those who joined in the Kings’ parade at the tail end of things last summer and became entralled by the whole, shiny Stanley Cup thing as it went through town. No problem. Excuse yourself to watching the replay of last night’s Clippers’ victory.)
The reaction today of the hockey fan is why the NHL owners, to a greedy man, know that no matter what happened in this labor negotiation, no matter how these millions of dollars will eventually be split up by them and the players, they’ll prey on the loyalty of those who buy the tickets, wear the sweaters and support the sponsors on TV that they’ll be back no matter how ridiculous this all played out.
Now, that may cause you to believe that hockey fans are stupid, stupid, stupid.
That’s a very romantic approach.
They’re humble, first. They’re altruistic, second. They’re loyal. To a fault. They’ve probably experienced first-hand their own labor issues, causing them to trust in their union leader in telling them walking off the job for awhile is something that had to be done for the betterment of everyone who comes after you.
They seem to understand that things like this come up, stuff gets bogged down, people stop drawing checks for awhile, then it gets figured out and, dang it all, they’re grateful their job still is there.
They’re God-fearing, not Fehr-fearing. They don’t gamble with their future, like Bettman likes to do.
And they do love their puck.
Darren Rovell, ESPN’s sports business correspondent, wrote about how he took a Twitter poll today, one in which he concluded that about three-quarters of the hundreds who responded indicated they’d watch the same percentage of games as they did the previous non-lockout seasons. The theory is they have no recourse to switch to – NFL or NBA fans can turn to the college football or basketball during a belabored labor stoppage. Hockey fans have the college game to turn to, and some have. But ultimately, they’re true to the pro game, and that’s that.
Thing is, the hockey fans I know don’t care much for Twitter anyway. Even the ones living in L.A. They’re not all that impressed with social media tools that portend to tell us how we’re thinking or reacting or planning to retaliate. They are the ones who tend to just enjoy the sport for what it is, admire the players who are a lot like them in many ways, and they look forward to having a beer and watching a hockey game at the end of the day. At the arena? Sometimes. But mostly, it’s on TV. Just works out better that way.
So if they appear a little apathetic today to whatever news has come out about anything getting settled, forgive them.
They’ll come around. They always seem to no matter how much they’re abused, misused or refused.