EDITORIAL: Back in business
The NHL is back in business.
After five months of sportscasts that sounded more like business reports as owners and players argued their cases for the protracted labour dispute that kept arenas dark, teams returned to the ice to prepare for a truncated season that begins on Saturday.
Some teams are trying to make amends, to salve the wounds that three difficult lockouts in 19 years have wrought on ticket-buying fans. The Vancouver Canucks are cutting prices at their concessions and giving away the jerseys their players will wear in their home opener. The Edmonton Oilers held their first practice on a frozen pond, using Twitter and Facebook to alert fans.
Canadians generally, and hockey fans in particular, are pretty forgiving. It’s likely the arenas in the NHL’s six Canadian cities will be just as full and noisy had the season been at its proper midway point. Those who can’t get a ticket, or afford one, will be tuned in to Hockey Night in Canada, a Saturday night TV tradition for more than 60 years.
By the time the race for the Stanley Cup playoffs heats up in earnest, say in two weeks, most fans will probably have forgotten there was a lockout in the first place. Especially in Toronto. After all, their team might already have been out of it had the season started on schedule last October.
It’s hard for the average working person to relate to a labour dispute between billionaire owners and employees who earn millions of dollars. There were never any picket lines set up outside those glittering arenas, many of them built with help from taxpayer money. Locked-out players never huddled around fire barrels to stay warm, worrying about how their strike pay will cover the rent.
Perhaps both sides should pause and think about that the next time they threaten to put hockey on hold.