I was a huge Flames fan from between 1984 to 1996 or so. I used to line up at 5 in the morning to buy crappy $12 nosebleed seats. I loved hockey and my school years were devoted to watching and playing it.
But the one-two punch of hooking-and-holding play and the unbalanced economic system has killed any interest I have for the NHL. Outside of the Olympics I don't think I've watched a whole game for three years now, and the Flames certainly aren't getting any money out of me. Please allow me to get some bitching out of my system:
The good, talented players are still getting mugged on a regular basis by the "defensive specialists". From what I've seen the two-referee system this year has helped, but some games looked more like an NFL game broke out. This situation isn't helped by ...
Overexpansion. There are too many fucking teams. 24 - 26 teams is perfect for any league. I remember back in the day when teams actually had 20 goal scorers on their checking and 4th lines. Now 20 goal scorers are the scoring stars on most teams, and earn millions of dollars a year. Which brings us to ...
The economic system is just pathetic. The NFL has a terrific system -- revenue sharing allows all teams to compete. Non-guaranteed contracts allow teams to cut dead wood. A flexible salary cap allows teams to sign needed players.
What do we see with the NHL? The same problems as Major League Baseball. No revenue sharing means that teams like the Red Wings can pay their top line, 3 players, more than the Flames can afford to play their entire 30-man roster. Guaranteed contracts mean that a player like Bob Probert can score 5 goals a year playing on the 4th line and still earn $3 million a year, and there is nothing the team can do about it. No salary cap means 6-8 teams will share the Cup while the other 24 teams fight over the right to maybe make the playoffs and (gasp) maybe score an upset win over the elite.
The trouble is I don't see any of these issues improving. The owners in New York, Detroit, Boston and Chicago aren't going to just give teams in small markets millions of dollars to better compete with their own teams. The players' union ain't going to give up the guaranteed contracts. And until 6-8 teams go bankrupt (not out of the realm of possibility), there will be too many plumbers mauling the talented players.
So screw it ... between Real Football and North American Football I have 12 months of sports to watch.
Let me put you in the picture, let me show you what I mean; The Messiah is my sister, ain't no king man, she's my queen.
Other than New Jersey (which doesn't really count), when was the last time a "small market" team won the Cup? Detroit and Colorado both have deep pockets and spend freely. Dallas? How much $$$ does Tom Hicks have? Ask Alex Rodriguez. Even Pittsburgh was a high ticket team when they won in the early 1990s.
And making it to the finals doesn't count, since that doesn't get you your name on the Cup.
I asked Bobby Dylan, I asked the Beatles. I asked Timothy Leary, but he couldn't help me either.
October 10/01: Flames def. Red Wings 4-2 CGY scorers: McAmmond, Nichol, Kravchuk, Iginla DET scorers: Draper, Shanahan
November 27/01: Red Wings def. Flames 4-2 DET scorers: Holmstrom, Hull, Maltby, Robitaille CGY scorers: McAmmond, Regehr
December 10/01: Flames def. Red Wings 2-0 CGY scorers: Iginla, Niedermayer
January 30/02: Flames def. Red Wings 4-3 CGY scorers: Savard (3), Iginla DET scorers: Robitaille, Larionov, Shanahan
Bottom Line: The Flames, a small-market club with a payroll in the neighbourhood of $25 million Canadian were the only team in the NHL to have a winning record against Detroit. What's that mean? The rich ain't unbeatable. Look at Carolina. Small-market club, large-market success. There's always gonna be a disparity, but there's also gonna be a bunch of teams willing to play hard despite the disparity.
AND I HAD SEASONS TICKETS, Section J2, Row 12, Seats 9 and 10. We only stopped getting seasons tickets [me & my Dad] because of the stupid Saddledome renovations.
Bart: Hey, immigrants! Beat it! Country's full! Sailor: OK people, you heard the lady. Back into the hold. We'll try Canada. [the immigrants moan] -- "The City of New York Vs. Homer Simpson"
"That's what the Internet is for, slandering others anonymously" Banky Edwards (Jason Lee) in Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back
Any step is closer to hockey. While they still need to agree on what they'll do with free agency and arbitration, the big thing was the cap. I am hopeful that this is the start of a new CBA and the return of the NHL in October.