will be the first person to commend any hockey fan out there who
has never changed their allegiance to their respective favorite team.
Bonus points if that team happens to be the Chicago Blackhawks! I cannot
say I have been loyal to one team since I've become a hockey fan, nor do I
see the reason why this should be regarded as something noble, or the mark of a
TRUE fan. The game has changed so much in the past 10 years alone, how can
one stay loyal to a single team anymore, when the team can't even make the same
commitment to its fans ? I am getting ahead of myself here, so a little
bit of background first:
On June 29, 1990,
being a hockey fan as I knew it changed forever. I did the unimaginable.
I did the unforgivable. I abandoned ship. I went from being a loyal
Montreal Canadiens fan to a Chicago Blackhawks fan. My favorite team had
done the unthinkable: the Habs had traded away Chris Chelios, my favorite player
of all time to his hometown of Chicago. It was then when reality hit me.
I was not a fan of a specific team, but of its players, its makeup.
So what happens when something you believe in starts changing into something
other than what you originally signed up for ? What happens when the
product no longer satisfies you ? What happens when the bad times
out-number the good, season after season ? Abandon ship ! My
relationship with the Blackhawks was a short-lived one. In the few years I
was a Chicago fan, I watched players such as Chelios, Roenick, Amonte, Belfour,
Hackett, Suter, Thomas, Larmer, Marchment, Nichols all leave to join other
teams. The Hawks were struggling more and more every year, management telling us
all to be patient. They never turned the corner, and to this day, still remain
as one of the weakest teams in the league. Let's not forget throughout all
of this they are
also still turning a profit. I don't mean to single out Chicago, because
there are a number of teams guilty of this, but it's an experience I've had to
endure. It's an experience that's become too commonplace in the NHL.
Teams are not built for championships anymore, they are simply built to compete.
Teams no longer play a game, they play a system. Is it any wonder why we can't
sell the game when there is no game to sell ?
Let's stop and
examine the state of the game now... It's one thing to stick with a team thick
thin, and while for every team like Atlanta and Ottawa who show there's
hope ahead, there's a counterpart, like Chicago and Pittsburgh, with no silver
lining in sight. It's one thing to be patient while a team rebuilds.
It's another to suffer through 5-10 years of agony and mediocrity, with no end in
sight. You can't expect fans to stay true to a team, when making a profit
is more important than the quality of the product put forth on the ice ( yes
this means you especially, BILL WIRTZ ). Every team needs to rebuild, and
every fan has to be patient through the rebuilding phase - that's not what this
is about. You have to lose before you can win (or insert any other cliché
here). It's where the true fans are made and emerge. But how long are
fans supposed to wait ? I'm not talking about waiting for a Cup, but
simply waiting for an exciting team that can compete. Actually, not just
compete - too many teams just compete. To compete at a high
level. If players can't be loyal to a team, why do people expect their
fans to be ? There comes a breaking point where you have to say ENOUGH.
A point where it becomes embarrassing to be wearing this cap / jersey / shirt, etc
when it comes to certain teams...
There are lots of things this
league needs to look at when the CBA expires. For one thing, why has no
one asked the fans for their input ? While no one is bigger than the game,
there's no game without fans - and a lot of us are fed up. Owners and
players have to stop taking us for granted. Why should we suffer the
aggravation of being loyal fans, when the teams can't be loyal to us and its
players ? Speaking of players, they can't even be loyal to us either !
The players have played a big role in the decline of the game. The "Us
against Them" attitude employed by the NHLPA has done a lot to help the players,
and has done just as much to kill the game. Something has gone awry when
the players started to think of themselves first, ahead of the game and ahead of
its fans ! No-trade clauses, for example, are a joke. Is this just a
tool to lull fans into believing a player is committed to a certain city ?
We all know this clause can be waived by the player at anytime, so why the
smoke and mirrors ? Fans have been showing their concerns for a while now,
and it seems like the League just keeps on ignoring us, or sugarcoating
everything. Excuses have to stop, and some people need to be made
accountable for the state the game is in. Something is not being managed
well somewhere, and it's time for a change. There's a BIG problem when the
guy in charge can't and won't even admit there is indeed, a problem ! The
power needs to shift somewhere, and trust me Mr. Bettman, the fans have already begun
to take the power back. Remember when it was affordable to attend a hockey
game ? Remember when the 100 Level seats were sold out ? The $200
seats aren't being sold because the NHL has successfully priced itself out of
the market - not because the teams need to build new arenas downtown. Can
anyone honestly tell me how a new building will improve the AHL-level team they
have in Pittsburgh ? How can the Stanley Cup Champions from New Jersey be playing in front
of an average 13000 fans, when the same building was full 10 years ago, when
the team was still hunting for its first championship ? Can anyone answer
these questions ? Is anyone listening to these questions ? Does my
opinion even matter ?
Home Advantage ? (Ottawa Senators): Ottawa fans are ... unexplainable. I feel like I live in the worst
hockey city in the world. Why does everyone in Ottawa think the Cup
is already engraved with SENS 2003-04 ? The Sens aren't exactly playing
their best hockey at the moment, but are still playing well enough to make the
playoffs - and that's all it takes. Fans here are jumping off and on the
bandwagon as many times as Cujo gets recalled by Detroit ! If fans ran the team, the Sens would be minus
Lalime, Bonk, Redden and Havlat at the moment. Funny, these players all
appear on the 2004 All-Star Fan Ballot. Guess I won't hold my breath to
see any of these guys get a hometown advantage in votes !
A Big Plus ? (Scott Stevens): On November 26th, NJ Devils'
Scott Stevens passed Larry Murphy to become the all time leading defenseman in
games played appearing in his 1616th game. Two other great facts about the
Devils captain 1) He's appeared in the post-season 20 out of 21 seasons and
2) Has never been a minus (+/-) player throughout his entire career.
Star Still Rising ? (Martin Brodeur): Brodeur is having another career year.
Somehow, he keeps getting better. On December 18th, he earned his 8th shutout in
just 29 games, 72nd career-wise. There's no doubt in my mind he'll surpass Terry Sawchuck. His career Average is 2.16, compared to
Patrick Roy's 2.18. Brodeur could
challenge the record for shutouts in a season, set by George Hainsworth who had
22 in the 44-game season of 1928-29. The post-expansion record is 15 set by Tony
Esposito in 1969-70, and New Jersey has 52 games remaining. Brodeur has
four in his past seven games, and his career total is the highest by an active
goaltender. He's 31 short of Sawchuk's NHL record. Oddly
enough, he's also 31 years old.
Statistics ? (Albert Einstein): Not everything that can be
counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.
Quote of the Week (Bobby Hull, WHA Commissioner): “We
have to get families back in the game, back where Saturday night, everything
stops. A case of beer comes out and anyone who comes to the house, they
better want to watch hockey.’”
HAVE SAFE &
HAPPY HOLIDAYS, uLAr TAKES RETURNS IN JANUARY WITH
THE SOLUTION TO FIX THE GAME. MORE EXCITEMENT & MORE SCORING
GUARANTEED, WHILE HELPING KEEP THE INTEGRITY OF THE GAME. STAY TUNED !!!!
Agree ? Disagree ? Comments ?
Questions ? Hate Mail ? Mail me here: