One of the biggest sporting leagues in the world went into a lockout with their referees, used replacements and embarrassed the game on a national scale. Now the NFL has rectified the problem and the NHL needs to sit up and take note.
The NFL and the referees have come to a tentative agreement that will see the regular refs return to the field in time for Thursday night’s game between Baltimore and Cleveland. It took three weeks longer than anyone wanted and many botched calls were a result with none bigger than last Monday. But alas Roger Goodell and company knew what the right thing to do was and he has saved his sport and will return it to glory. Gary Bettman I hope you are reading this.
Bettman has been the commissioner in the NHL since 1993 and over the last two decades under his watchful eye the league has fell victim to three work stoppages. None were nastier than the ’04 lockout that saw the entire season fall by the way side and if things don’t progress soon, this year could follow suit.
The game is being embarrassed by the second work stoppage within the last eight years. The owners want this and the players want that. Money is at the forefront of the negotiations and the fans are getting impatient, at least the ones that have stuck around to see how things play out. The casual fan who bought into the hockey theme in the past few years is long gone and can you blame them? Just when the game is built up to a North American scale that Bettman can be proud of, he is now attempting to rip it all down with one foul swoop. Markets like Nashville were loving their Predators hockey and the great city of Los Angeles finally had a champion other than the Lakers. Hockey was on the map in these non-traditional hockey cities and that is now threatened of being destroyed.
Maybe the difference between the NFL and the NHL’s success, or lack thereof, is in the commissioners. Goodell knows the best way to sell the game is to have it being played. Bettman on the other hand doesn’t care if there is no game action as long as he and the owners make money which to the fans is a spit in the face.
Goodell saw his beloved league heading in the wrong direction. People were making a mockery of it because of the lockout with the refs and he stepped in and addressed the issue. It’s now business as usual for the NFL and if only Bettman and his posse could see the impact a resolution would have in the hockey world.
All we can do is hope that Gary looks at Roger’s success and follows his footsteps in preventing the sport from enduring any more embarrassment. If past performances have taught us anything though, it’s that future behaviors don’t look very promising.