Let Me Set the Scene
It was April 28, 2015. My old college roommates and I were in our old college dorm, watching an unfortunate first in major league baseball. Due to the Baltimore riots, that night’s Chicago White Sox vs Baltimore Orioles game went completely fanless, under an order from Major League Baseball. A few stray fans gathered outside to peak in and cheer through the stadium fence, but every seat in the house remained empty. It was a sight that was unreal, bizarre and unsettling. I was glad I was a few states up north and an arm’s length away because the scene seemed like a real-life version of The Twilight Zone.
Those memories seem rather insignificant, but they all came back when questions about sporting events in the middle of the coronavirus came to attention. Some thought that the events should go fanless, much like that Baltimore Orioles game I uncomfortably watched five years ago. With the Columbus Blue Jackets and San Jose Sharks announced they would go fanless for the rest of the season, for the NHL, it didn’t seem a question of if, only a question of when.
Welcome to NHL20…
That was a few short weeks ago. Now I would gladly watch a fanless New Jersey Devils game on television, as all sports have been closed down entirely. The fans miss the NHL, the players miss the NHL, and I’m sure the people who profit of the NHL miss the NHL. (Quick note, I’m not here to debate about the NHL’s decision to suspend play.)
This isn’t some sad song of me singing about how much I miss hockey (although I have several on my mixtape that I’ll drop on my sound cloud). This is me saying I hope the NHL players are taking notice, I hope the NHL is taking notice. I hope the NHLPA is taking notice.
No More Lockouts
The unfortunate reality of this sport is that we always have to look over our shoulders twice if a lockout is coming. The current situation is obviously not akin to a traditional Bettman booing work stoppage, but there’s a way they’re connected. At least, we can hope that people take notice of the similarities in the situations.
I’m not here to complain about Bettman or lockouts either (okay, maybe a little bit). Whenever a work stoppage is possibly looming, the NHL likes to dangle that carrot of preventing a lockout in front of the players union. They don’t agree and the season either gets canceled or postponed while both sides fight it out. I’ve already dealt with this three times in my lifetime.
Fans are understandably left disappointed and forgotten in that whole process. Enter this year’s league-wide suspension, everyone misses hockey and would do close to anything to see it back again. During normal lockouts, we fans get mad and upset. Now we realize that live sports of any kind aren’t something that should be taken for granted.
Hopefully, the NHL and NHLPA feel the same. We shouldn’t expect them to forget about all their issues in the upcoming CBA negotiations, such as escrow, player contracts, and the Olympics. Let’s be honest about to what do if this type of event ever, but hopefully never, happens again will be a contentious issue on the table as well.
Unlike now, the decision to make hockey happen will rest completely in their hands. Hopefully, they remember the fans that missed watching games, and the arena and surrounding business workers losing a livelihood, in 2020. That won’t solve their problems, but hopefully, that will put them in perspective.