A hockey fan’s ideological struggle

Op-eds Opinions

Those who know me well know I’m a huge hockey fan. Lately, I’ve been asked about my thoughts on the current NHL labour dispute that has ripped something I hold very dear clean out of my grasp. 

NHL revenue has increased from $2.1 to  $3.3 billion US since the last lockout, which took place during the scrapped 2004-2005 season. Since then, ratings have gone up, and the sport as a whole continues to grow in popularity.

Granted, not everything in hockey-land is rosy. The only reason many teams like the Coyotes, Predators or Blue Jackets still exist is because of the league-wide revenue-sharing system implemented in 2004, when the current agreement was written up. And yes, sometimes Americans prefer watching poker to taking in an NHL game.

Needless to say, the economic side of hockey bears a few problems.

So, it’s official. We’re entering another lockout. Another year with no goals, no great saves, no celebrations and no blown calls. Another year in which I won’t get to revel in the glory of a Stanley Cup for my beloved Canucks. But this time, it’s not because Luongo and the D cracked under pressure.

For those of you familiar with the details of this labour negotiation, no matter where your allegiances lie (except you, Leafs fans), I only hope you share in my pain. While those involved in the dispute view the struggle as a war of principle over what’s right (ask Sidney Crosby), those on the periphery — the fans — must stand by and bow their heads, resigned to the fact that those at the economic helm of a national passion haven’t come to a mutual understanding.

Consider baseball, America’s pastime. The labour strike that wiped out the 1994-95 season embedded a sense of dread in the sport’s fan base. Fans were forced to watch as something that helped define what it was to be American suddenly disappeared. And when the smoke cleared and the survivors were accounted for, baseball was forever changed.

Now, consider that hockey is so much more to me, and to many other Canadians, than a pastime. It’s a way of life, a beacon of cultural exclusivity.

Just as importantly, it gives us something to do while we wait for our Kraft Dinner to finish cooking.

This issue affects more than just hockey fans and professional Zamboni drivers. Like it or not, the ethics behind this lockout go beyond hockey.

The financial battle being waged between players of a game so deeply entrenched in the collective psyche of a nation and the owners who throw billions on the table in hopes of making billions more is a struggle between upperclassmen. Dare I mention the one per cent?

While over 80 per cent of the world’s population earns under $10 US per day to feed their families, 30 ownership groups and around 1 000 professional hockey players are unable to agree on how to share a little over $450 million.

I present this argument as a rabidly avid hockey fan. I advance this moral depravity by purchasing NHL tickets and memorabilia. With every webpage I view listing player stats and game highlights, I help turn the wheels of a system that is fundamentally flawed to the core.

And yet, when the NHL does return one day — when it finally does — I’ll care more about who wins a game between a bunch of rich guys wearing jerseys representing my home city and a group of rich guys that don’t than the plight of an impoverished worker in Somalia.

Is this how the world works? Or is it what we’ve been conditioned to accept?