Cornwall ON – Is hockey in trouble? I used to be a huge baseball fan. I lived and died MLB..almost. I studied stats; I played Rotiserrie and Stratomatic baseball. I went to minor league games. I got to speak to Bill James even!
I have an outline for a screenplay on Rube Wadell even. (If you know who Rube was then you’re a real baseball fan 🙂 ) When baseball was struggling; just before Barry Bonds decided to blow up his body with whatever he consumed, injected, and rubbed on his belly I started to notice statistical variances; that and a whole lot of Dominican Republic players starting to smack bombs.
The game changed forever. Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmeiro, Bud Selig… No, baseball lost its soul in search of the mighty dollar and fan. It lost me. It lost many, but baseball has always been cyclical. I still peek now and again, but without that personal connection with the players it’s not the same.
When I worked in Hockey I gravitated to the names of my youth and the past. I totally dug that I got to work and travel with Maurice Richard, the Babe Ruth of Hockey. I loved it all, but even in the 90’s dinks like Patrick Roy started to make Hockey less fun for me. There were still a lot of great guys even if they didn’t work with you. Mark Recchi cracked me up when I chatted him up at the airport one day. Watching Lyle Odelein rip open a box of cards looking for his own ( he really did rip up the box too) but the game, like baseball, changed.
Guys got bigger, and now we are seeing the ramification of it with concussions threatening careers of so many. Just like the influx of Dominican players dramatically changed Baseball, Hockey was pumped full of Russian players in search of Dollars instead of Rubles.
The NHL, as I write this, is at the precipice. I don’t think it’s too late, but I think that marketing only works when the core, the foundation of the product is strong. I’m not so sure I like the NHL today as much as I could.
Gary Bettman and his psychophants need to step a look back and drink a Molson or two. They need to connect with what makes hockey magical; with what works today, and they need to protect the game, and the players from it turning into what it’s not.
I know. I sound a bit like an old man, but like many old time hockey fans there beats the heart of a boy that watched Jean Beliveau’s 500th goal on a school night within me.
Hockey will forever be Canada’s game; moving Atlanta to Winnipeg is a good start. We need to remember the past when we look to the future. Now if Montreal could just get a good GM….and coach….and sort out the D…
Jamie Gilcig – Editor – The Cornwall Free News