by Timmy Corbett
With the collective bargaining agreement set to end next summer, there is more going on than just a season for the Rangers. If the owners and players union cannot agree on a new structure, there may be no hockey next year, as the owners may lock the players out or the union may call for a strike.
Each side is staring each other down, pointing fingers and laying blame. They have, however, forgotten about the most important part of the equation, us… the fans.
Hockey has always been a sport where skill, toughness and a solid work ethic are needed to play at an elite level. Blue collar people could understand this type of player, they understood and respected someone who went out and earned their money. This respect may soon be fading, if the players cannot find an agreement.
The second problem simply put, is the kind of play going on in the NHL now. Systems are more highly regarded than the players themselves, even though the players have always been the games best ambassadors. Who hasn’t discussed who was the best power forward, defenseman or goalie with someone? Has anyone ever really wondered out loud if the Devils, Wild or Senators have a more efficient trap? This said, the owners are still far from a position of power at the negotiating table.
Playing the trap makes it possible to ice less than stellar talents every night, these grinders, rightly so, make far less than flashier more talented players. Playing the trap may mean you win games, but winning is far from a guarantee of making money, just scan the empty seats in New Jersey and it is obvious. So if it isn’t winning that creates the energy that draws fans to their respective stadiums, what is it?
When I was younger going to games at the garden, when the Rangers scored a goal, the roar of the crowd, with everyone launching to their feet cheering and clapping was amazing. The goals, the hits, the open ice and fast pace is what draws fans. Either the NHL will change immensely if or when the collective bargaining agreement is signed or it will surely be forced to change over the next few seasons because the players and the owners will have to deal with the harshest critics, us… the fans.