There’s a lot of talk out there right now about how the NHL is a business and business is good. All the numbers are on a positive swing and the future is looking so bright, Gary Bettman has to stand in the shade (fortunately, he’s small enough to fit into anybody’s shadow).
As a fan of business, as I am, I give this news a heart whoop-de-fucking-doo. I’ll get out the streamers and noisemakers and Bartles & James later, but first let me tell you why I hate that news.
I’m a hockey fan.
Can anybody please explain to me why I would want hockey to be twice as popular as it is right now? Would that make the Red Wings a better team? Would my viewing experience significantly improve? Would it make the on-ice product any better?
Hockey, as a business, is not an issue of supply and demand, it’s an issue of price and demand. I spend $160 per year for a subscription to NHL Center Ice, which gives me every single hockey game over the course of a season (and quite a few baseball games, since those channels share space with MLB Extra Innings). Well, the supply of hockey never goes down, but the price still goes up when the demand does. In America, the holy grail of sports is the NFL, where you’re looking at $250 if you want to see every game. I like hockey, but I like having 90 more dollars at the end of the year, too.
Second, new fans = bandwagon fans. Listen, there’s always a lot of talk about bandwagoners and how they’re annoying. This is because bandwagoners are fucking annoying. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve brought my brother-in-law into the fold of Red Wings fandom and I got a lot of enjoyment out of that. This is because I love my brother-in-law. But, chances are I probably hate yours and would rather bean him with a beer bottle than explain icing to him. The Wings getting a shitload more fans wouldn’t mean I’d have a shitload more friends with whom to share the enjoyment, it means I’d have a shitload more embarrassing dickweeds hanging around. If you’re like me and believe that 80% of the population is dumb, then it stands to reason that 80% of hockey fans are also dumb and that only 2 out of 10 new fans won’t be blathering idiots. I’m glad I have a lot of sites where I don’t have to read somebody saying things like “LOL IMHO trade Franzen and Zetterberg for Malkin” just because there are people out there who believe their idea must be extra-special and clever because nobody else brought it up (hint: nobody else brought it up because it’s a stupid idea and they don’t want to look stupid).
If you think coverage of the game will drastically improve the more popular it becomes, you are simply wrong about that. How many football or baseball announcers can you even stand?
But hey, maybe the game will get better. If enough people see the horrible supplemental discipline policies or reffing standards, maybe there will be enough pressure on the league to change. Yes, that’s very possible. Another solution is to replace the people responsible for the terrible supplementary discipline policies and the stupid reffing standards with people who are competent at their jobs. Have you ever had a restaurant that you loved to go to because it was kind of your little secret? You loved their spicy jambalaya and were on a first-name basis with the wait staff there to the point where you didn’t even need a menu when you came in? Well, imagine what happens when that place gets popular in town. Suddenly, they have to bring in new and inexperienced servers who don’t know your name or how many ice cubes you like in your drink. Suddenly, the spicy jambalaya is milder than Danny Tanner on tranquilizers because all the new bland assholes who showed up that shouldn’t be ordering spicy food in the first place complained that the dish was too hot for their delicate mouths. Suddenly, the nice, quiet atmosphere you shared with your friends is a bustling mess where you have to scream to be heard and wait 40 minutes for a table to open up (you can flat out forget about your favorite table, you’ll take what they give you, damnit). Yeah, you’re kinda happy that the guy who owns the restaurant is now financially better off, but you wish you could go back to the way it was.
Hockey is my favorite little secret and I’d rather deal with Sportscenter anchors using the tired “haw….key?” line where they fake ignorance than deal with the real ignorance of thousands more people calling for them to make my jambalaya more bland so they can stomach it.