Blocked By The Lock

Quick, everyone groan and shake your head like it’s 2004. The lockout has become a harsh reality again.

I know it’s old news at this point, but there isn’t anything else to talk about, and it isn’t my fault that the Oracle’s offweek came when the lockout did. And it isn’t as if, you know, there have been meetings between the NHLPA and the owners and Gary Bettman. Nothing has been done since the lockout began.

While everything has been doom-and-gloom sounding, there’s room for optimism. For Rangers fans, the lockout is actually a pretty good thing to have right now.

First, it’s highly doubtful that this will be like the 2004-05 season that got completely locked out. The NHL may not be the money-making monster that the NFL, NBA and MLB all are, but they’re definitely making more than they did almost a decade ago. People can say whatever they want about NBC coverage, but it may be what saves the season.

NBC is contracted to pay the NHL even without games on, but business sponsors aren’t. The television deals the NHL have now are significantly different than what the league had in 2004, and there’s going to be pressure on the NHL to fix things. The league will now have to answer to big bucks walking out, which wasn’t so much the case back in 2004.

With that being said, it’s time to focus on the Rangers and what’s going to happen to them in these next couple of months. And more, importantly, why the Rangers are more than likely the team who will benefit most from the lockout.

Marian Gaborik underwent shoulder surgery this summer, and doctors said he wasn’t going to be able to play again until the beginning of December, at least. If the NHL were to start on its assigned date of Oct. 11, the Rangers would be missing out on their best scorer for two months, give or take. For a team that ranked 11th in goals per game last season, it would have been devastating to not have him around.

That concern isn’t a concern any more. If I’m right on the money and the league comes back in late November or early December, they’ll miss him for maybe a week or two. They may not even miss him at all: It’s realistic to think that once the league comes back, so will Gaborik.

But honestly? We can talk about how the lockout benefits the Rangers for hours. We can talk about being optimistic that things won’t be like 2004. It doesn’t stop the fact that this lockout absolutely sucks.

This is the second lockout in eight years. How awful is it that the reason there was no season in 2004-05 was for nothing? It took them a whole season to come up with a Collective Bargaining Agreement that is no longer good enough. At this point, I can’t help but think that the NHL does not care about its fans the way other major sports leagues do, if they even care at all. It’s a shame.

I know the NHL fan base is smaller than others, but it is fervent in its love for the game. It’s abhorrent and wrong for a league to do this to a group of people who pay exuberant amounts of money just to show support for a group of men who sacrifice their physical and mental well-being 82 times a year.

If I’m going to be honest, it’s the owners who are jerking players and fans around. The owners are the ones who need to step up to the plate and figure this out, because if this is another season-long lockout, the league is in big trouble.

Hockey is a game steeped in tradition. As it turns out, barring players from playing and fans from watching is weaving its way into that tradition. It needs to stop now.


Cat Tacopina