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November 18, 2012 - Steve Schulwitz
Well it appears the NHL lockout has driven another dagger into the hearts of hockey fans (all 20 of them).
The league announced it is canceling the annual "Winter Classic," which has become one of the few marquee offerings the befuddled league has to offer and was to be held in Michigan and talks are no longer taking place between the owners and the union heads.
Hockey fans in the state, all four of them, have been waiting for years to have the game be featured in the state with the Red Wings doing battle in the Big House in Ann Arbor. There was even a weekend full of events and a winter carnival planned, which may not take place now due to the game's cancellation. It is a shame, but not entirely a surprise to me.
This is the part where some hockey fans may be angered by what I'm about to say, particularly my friends Rob, Dana, Steve and Jami, but it can't be ignore— the sport has been on a slow death march for some time. Its finances resemble that of our federal government. The league's revenues are below what its expenditures are. Not a good recipe for success.
Here is why.
Sure, there are die-hard hockey fans scattered throughout the United States, but a great percentage of them are in regionalized areas, which is the case in Michigan because of the Red Wings' success. Overall attendance is dismal and television ratings are anemic for most of the markets however. The fact the owners continue to invest boat loads of money in demographics that aren't receptive to professional hockey has killed attendance and players continual to demand to be paid comparable to athletes in more successful leagues have made it near impossible for most of the teams to be profitable.
I'm not taking sides in the lockout, but how are the owners supposed to pay the salaries the players demand when they are stuck with laughable television contracts on networks many don't even receive in their cable package. The owners decision to renegotiate a new contract every few years is a must when bankruptcy threatens the arenas they own and operate. It has been said you have to invest money to make money. This will not work with hockey and the owners have finally seen the light and are taking evasive action in order to right the ship before half of the teams file for Chapter 11. That is the harsh truth.
Make no mistake about it. The NHL is near or at the bottom of the sports food chain. The NBA, NFL, MLB, NASCAR, NCAA football and basketball are all leaps and bounds more watched and attended and the ratings show this. In my opinion with the popularity of soccer and extreme sports soaring among the younger generation, they too will surpass the proud Canadian sport.
So what is the answer? What would Steve Schulwitz do to help the sport snap out of its funk? It doesn't matter what I think. The loyal fans would disagree or debate the points anyway because they are in denial also.
A fact that can't be disputed is there is no hockey. There probably won't be any hockey this year and other than the hard core fans, nobody cares.
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