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If you want to have an impact regarding the NHL lockout, ignore it

A long while ago I posted a piece here that acknowledged my confusion as to why fans boo certain athletes.  I get that fans don’t like certain guys, sure, but my broader point is a bit off to the side on this one.

Some of you will remember that Bobby Orr (in my view the finest player I’ve ever seen) used to get booed regularly in Toronto.  (Leaf followers of that era also well recall that we have booed “our own” over the years, including one of the best players of all-time, Frank Mahovlich, but that’s a different story. Larry Murphy and Bryan McCabe got the same treatment in more recent times…) Bobby Hull heard a lot of boos over the years at Maple Leaf Gardens.  A bit later, so did Guy Lafleur.

When the Flyers morphed into the Broad Street Bullies in the early 1970s, we booed them as well.

But I’ve often wondered, why?  To me, if you really want to show your distaste for something, ignore it.  So if we really wanted to send a “message” or  “get into Orr’s head” (as if that was ever going to happen...), we should have just sat back and said—and did—nothing.  No reaction at all.  Like we don’t even notice he was there, if you know what I mean.

It was the same with the Flyers.  They loved being booed.  It’s like being the villain in wrestling.  They thrive on it.  It makes good theatre and they gain notoriety and fame—and a nicer paycheck.

Which brings me to the current NHL situation, labour dispute, lockout, impasse, whatever we want to call it this week.  To me, the more we, as fans, belabour the idea that the players or owners somehow “owe” us a game (they really don’t), the better off we’ll be.  When we moan (and most of us have done it, if we're honest) that there’s no hockey, what are we going to do without hockey, etc., it simply plays into Bettman’s and Fehr’s hands.  They well know that, in Canadian markets at least, we are a ‘captive audience’.  We talk about the 1972 Summit Series and the ’87 Canada Cup like those things happened yesterday.  I mean, how more needy could we seem?

So yes, as I have posted here, I’m sure most Americans don’t even know there is an NHL “lockout”—and I’m including many cities where there is an NHL franchise—and if they do know, they could not possibly care less.  Clearly, this "business" disruption is about smaller market teams/franchises/owners and the issues those organizations face.  If it was up to the Rangers, Leafs, Red Wings (Jimmy Devellano's recent comments aside) and Flyers, I'm guessing training camp would already be in full swing.  But it’s a 30-team (should be 24, but what do I know?) partnership, and I don’t mean with the players.

I do wish, on a side note, that both sides would not bother with videos, statements, and all the standard public relations tactics that just mask how silly and incredibly shallow and selfish both sides are in this dispute.

The owners claim they "care" about the fans.  Who's kidding who?

Of course the players would continue to play (and get paid) while they negotiate.  Why wouldn't they?

I know the players figure the owners are all dumb as a post (hard to argue, sometimes) since they hand out all those absurd contracts, but they aren’t that stupid. When a  team's owners don’t fork out to pay for good players, fans complain- loudly.  The owners can’t collude, so what can they do if they want to “compete”? They're caught in a spiral and can't get out.  It has to stop somewhere and they are trying, it seems, to draw a line in the sand- as they did in 2005.

(An aside:  why would Maple Leaf goalie James Reimer, who is utterly unproven at the NHL level, allow himself to take part in an NHLPA sympathy video like he did?  I like Reimer a lot, on and off the ice, as I’ve said here many times.  But he may be playing in the East Coast League before long.  I’m not sure that he should be a torch-bearer on this one…)

Anyway, I don’t want to get knee-deep in all this negative-sounding stuff today.   I’ve come to see that we will just end up fighting amongst ourselves.  If you are a “labour” person, you likely will sympathize with and support the players, though what they have in common with the everyday working person like myself and many others is beyond me.  I just can't summon up the concern.  They sure don’t have any for us, or for those workers who really depend on NHL hockey for a lot of their income.  

I realize that others look at things differently than I do.  That said, some observers, like myself, while they don’t exactly support the greedy owners, they do think the players have had it swell for a long, long time and could stand a little more of a reality check.

Regardless of where any of us stand on the issues that divide the two sides, I’ve heard of suggestions for petitions, boycotts, Twitter “unfollow” protests and a range of well-intended efforts to let both sides know that fans aren’t happy and want hockey back.

To me, the best thing we could do is ignore them. That really would send a message.

It won’t happen, but our silence would be the most powerful thing we could “do” to let everyone involved know that we can live without them (and we obviously can—we’ve done it before).

Once they realize that, it changes the landscape and both sides would maybe, just maybe, have to deal with a different reality.


  1. Michael,

    I too long for a different reality. One where the players and owners worked together. One where no one talked about others as cattle. Or, as I am sure is said behind closed doors, a much less politically correct term. One where the fans of the game don't fight amongst ourselves, except over trades and draft choices. I personally love that stuff.

    I think that while sometimes we can disagree as fans over minor points, we agree wholeheartedly on the big picture. We love the game, and the wonderful addition it is in our lives. Not only the game, but allowing us to each spend time with people whose company we enjoy. Whether that is in person watching the game with a cold beverage, or chatting about it on the internet.

    There will come a time that the game suffers from this attitude from both sides. I don't know that it will happen this lockout, or at the next impasse in contract negotiations. I am certain that it will happen. Especially in the smaller markets that Bettman claims to care about. There will never be a lack of fans in Canada, ever. We love the game too much. I am sure that the same will never be true of the southern cities.

    Spending so much time on ideological talking points re:the lockout, has really run its course for me. I may have said this to you in this forum, I hate both sides for this. The only qualification is, that I hate the owners a tiny fraction more. Solely because I believe that with great power, comes great responsibility.

    This reminds me, I need to cancel my LeafsTV subscription. After that, I think that I am good to ignore them for a good long while.

  2. I'm with you Jim, I enjoy the banter here when it comes to personnel moves, trades, etc.. And while I'm not a "rumours" guy, a little speculation makes for good hockey conversation. As fans, this is what we can enjoy, besides simply the results of games.

    As for the lockout, it will be a long one. But I really do hope fans send a "quiet" message. The media won't, because they all rely on the league for their jobs. It's in their self-interest to keep talking about it.

    But as fans, we would be wise, as much as we love the game, to let go and basically adopt a "wake me up when it's over" approach.

    Thanks Jim.

  3. "the best thing we could do is ignore them."

    I am already doing it.

    I am not even unhappy today, in fact I have my happy hockey face on.

    Why? Because some AHL training camps open soon and the news world is ramping up on the AHL game. Here are a few of nice links:

    Oct. 6...this year's begining the blue and rouge...Marlies play the Bulldogs

    We get our first game Mon. Oct 1 Chicago vs. Peoria.

  4. That's precisely the spirit we should adopt as fans, DP. Thanks.

  5. I read today that Bettman and Fehr didn't shake hands at some function last night where they were seated at the same table. What are they - 5 year olds? Disgraceful on both sides - particularly since they're both representing multi-millionaires who live in a world most of us can't even dream of inhabiting. In what other job but pro sports can you get paid for years even though you do your job poorly? Or sit on the sidelines and don't even do it at all? And then add to that we're talking hundreds of thousands, if not millions, a year. No sympathy from me.
    And the owners seem to want to roll things back to the "good old days" of players-as-cattle. That's great. Greedy custards, as my grandmother might have said.
    This whole "dispute", and the posturing on both sides, would be totally unnecessary if the two sides could act like adults - although even that word has been demeaned in our current society. How about "act maturely"?
    I've supported the Leafs for almost 40 years, and been a fan as long as I can remember. But I'm getting to the point where - if we lose a whole year of hockey - I may finally throw in the towel.

  6. Well said, Gerund O'. I do wonder, despite the fact that "Canadian" hockey fans have generally always come back to the game, if another lost year would be too much. It's hard to fathom that both sides would allow this to happen, but I think that's what we're facing...

  7. I my mind it's almost Christmas eve...Marlies training camp!

    I am so happy I started looking at Marlies history and I found that it runs deep.

    There are lots of big names involved: Conn Smythe, George Armstrong, Ron Ellis, Mike Walton, Pete Stemkowski, Bob Pulford, Red Horner, Harvey Jackson, Charlie Conacher, Joe Primeau and the villan Harold Ballard.

    52 Stanley Cups have been won by players who played for both teams!

    Brad Park and Steve Shut played for the Marlies. Take a peek at their Marlies pictures:

    Some really good info:

    There's some great Vintage Leaf Memories in there....perhaps enouogh for 3 or 4 different colums.

  8. I just read this morning that Daryl Katz, Patrick LaForge, Kevin Lowe and others from the Oilers leadership group are in Seattle for meetings. It seems that Katz is not content with the sweetheart deal he negotiated with the City of Edmonton but is using Seattle as leverage to get more.

    I also read a story about the scoring stats of Rick Nash, Joe Thornton and the rest of the NHL mercenaries in Europe and Russia. It looks like most of them are earning the salaries that they desperately needed in order to feed their families.

    Greed, unmitigated greed on both sides. I see nothing that would allow me to support either side. I'm sick of both of them and their platitudes.

    On a lighter note I couldn't let your mention of Bobby Orr pass without comment. I first saw Orr play in the MTHL for the Oshawa Generals. He was 14, playing against 17, 18, 19 and 20 year olds and he was one of the best players on the ice (my memory fails me on where they were playing but it might have been Varsity arena).

    There have been many super stars in the NHL but Orr is the only one who actually changed the way the game was played. There had been rushing defensemen before Orr (Red Kelly, Jacques Laperriere and Tim Horton come to mind) but they generally carried the puck to the opponents blue line and shot the puck in or passed to a forward. Orr took it to a whole new level and was a true offensive force, carrying the puck deep into the offensive zone. I believe he is still the only defenseman to lead the league in scoring which he did twice.

    Bobby Orr was a tough kid who was very good defensively. He wouldn't be intimidated and was in a number of scraps, especially early in his all too short NHL career. In my estimation he is the best player ever to play hockey.

  9. Shutt, Park, Armstrong, Walton, Ellis and more - all great names, DP. I'll thin on some future story possibilities! Thanks.

  10. I'm with you on Orr, Pete Cam. Absolutely. How tremendous it had to be for you to see him at such an early age.

    I always found it interesting that many people claimed Orr was "poor" defensively. How odd, I thought. To me, he was the best guy in the league all over the ice.

    Thanks as always Pete Cam.

  11. More exiting news from today:

    Marlies Announce Camp Roster

    September 25, 2012

    The Toronto Marlies announced Tuesday, the team’s 2012 training camp roster as they enter their eighth season in the American Hockey League. The Marlies have invited 34 players to training camp including 20 forwards, 10 defencemen and four goaltenders. Below is a list of the players attending camp.

    Forwards: Spencer Abbott, Will Acton, Carter Ashton, Keith Aucoin, Tyler Brenner, Sam Carrick, Joe Colborne, Andrew Crescenzi, Jerry D’Amigo, Nicolas Deschamps, Jamie Devane, Ryan Hamilton, Adam Hughesman, Nazem Kadri, Leo Komarov, Greg McKegg, Brad Ross, Kenny Ryan, Greg Scott and Mike Zigomanis

    Defencemen: Jesse Blacker, Mark Fraser, Jake Gardiner, Ryan Grimshaw, Simon Gysbers, Korbinian Holzer, Mike Kostka, Paul Ranger, Corey Syvret and Dylan Yeo

    Goaltenders: Andrew Engelage, Mark Owuya, Jussi Rynnas and Ben Scrivens

    Training camp opens on Thursday at the MasterCard Centre for Hockey Excellence in Etobicoke. The first on ice practice will take place at 9 a.m. on Saturday, September 29 at Ricoh Coliseum. Toronto’s first preseason game will be played at the Cobourg Community Centre in Cobourg, Ontario on October 6 at 7 p.m. against the Hamilton Bulldogs, AHL affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens.

    Take a careful look at the at roster . It looks strong. Also notice the lack of Orr and Rosehill. David Broll is already down to the Soo Greyhounds. It looks like Jamie Devane is going to get a good look as the teams's tough guy. This might work out well, as he has been one ot the toughest in the OHL for a while now, but he can play at bit. He had 23 goals and 45 point last year. At 6'5" and 217 lbs already, we might have a future Mike Rupp or a taller version of Chris Neil. The AHL is the perfect place for us to better see what we have.

  12. DP's comments hit a chord. I followed the Marboroughs (after all they took their name from the Duke of Marlborough) or Marlboros avidly, attending many Sunday afternoon doubleheaders. The other team was the also history rich St. Michaels Majors coached for many years by the venerable Father David Bauer.

    The Marlboros competed in the OHA and OHL from 1903 to 1989 winning 7 Memorial Cups. Turk Broda coached them from the middle 50's to the early 60's. George Armstrong also coached them in the 70's. The Marlboroughs also had a senior team that played for the Stanley Cup in 1904 and won an Allen Cup in 1950.

    St Mikes were founded as St Michaels College School in 1906. The later became the St Michaels Majors in the 30's. St Mikes teams won 4 Memorial cups.

    While there was an intense rivalry between the two teams, they were both feeder teams for the Leafs. The Stanley Cup Champion Leafs 61-62 team contained 8 ex Marlboros (George Armstrong, Bob Baun, Carl Brewer, Brian Conacher, Billy Harris, Bob Pulford and Ron Stewart) and 9 ex Majors (Arnie Brown, Gerry Cheevers, Dick Duff, Tim Horton, Larry Keenan, Red Kelly, Dave Keon, Les Kozak and Frank Mahovlich).

    DP is correct. The Marlies history does indeed run deep.

  13. Jay Rosehill is a UFA and has not reen re-signed. Colton Orr has one more year at $1 million. The problem is if he is not assigned to the Marlies, then they may be planning to carry him on the Leafs although, come to think of it there will be spots opening up on the Marlies if the NHL resumes.

  14. I was not living in Toronto in the late '50s and early '60s Pete Cam, but I was well aware of the Marlies/St. Mike's Sunday afternoon "double-headers" at Maple Leaf Gardens in those golden days. The rivalry was huge.

    So many great names from both organizations eventually contributed significantly to the Leafs and other teams around the old six-team NHL.

    The Marlies, while no longer a junior team, still are part of the Leaf heritage. It would indeed be nice to see them continue to contribute to the Leaf legacy in this era.

  15. 'm not sure about Colton Orr and his contract status vis-a-vis the Marlies. I know he played that last season, but did he clear waivers?

    I'm guessisng he is on a one-way contract with the Leafs, and therefore not eligible to play in the NHL during the lockout?

    Someone else here may know....

  16. If Jimmy Devellano is correct in his assessment that management are among the 'cattle' in the eyes of the owners... here's a thought from outside the box:

    What if the GM's/management team formed a union to collectively bargain with the owners. An agreement could be put in place that would have consequences for the GM's that violate the agreement that is in place. No collusion charges could be levelled against the ownership and the 'playing field' would be levelled.

    An idea from the stands (past left field)...

  17. I think I know what you're suggesting here, InTimeFor62. The GM's would agree, in their own "agreement" with their owners (and by extension with their own individual owners), that they would not go beyond certain financial limits when dealing with players. This would virtually eliminate outrageous contracts and keep each team within their own self-imposed budget. (Owners have a right to make money, so they can decide to have small player salary budgets, regardless of the cap, as long as they stay above the floor...)

    I'm guessing that there is some legal reality that would be breached here, though it makes sense to me! Thanks InTimeFor62.