Tonawanda News

Columns

September 20, 2012

KEPPELER: Opportunities lost in NHL lockout

(Continued)

Tonawanda News —

It was a rite of passage to which we were all looking forward.

Instead, we’re focusing on our other fall activities: pumpkin farms, cider mills and Halloween parties. Jerseys will be worn, but not to games. Movie nights are planned instead of nightly hockey viewing.

And that first up-close-and-personal taste of the game won’t be happening — probably not this fall, at any rate, and I find it frighteningly likely not at all this season.

I don’t pretend to understand all the ins and outs of the NHL collective bargaining agreement and the mechanics of a lockout. This time, if not the last, I tend to come down more on the side of the players than the owners ... but then I’ve always tended more toward the rank-and-file than the people-sitting-in-the-big-office sorts. But at the same time, neither can I truly relate with people who are ultimately getting paid more money than I’ll ever see ... to play a game.

I read the news stories on the lockout and I see lots of moaning and groaning about money and salary caps and management. From neither side do I see any sense of urgency, a sense of what this could do to the NHL and its already suffering image and wider fan base.

Some fans will always be there. They’ll forgive anything for the sheer love of the game. When everyone, players and owners alike, stops whining and gets down to business and finally gets arena doors throughout the U.S. and Canada unlocked and games back on the air ... they might not be happy, but they’ll be there. Because they can’t stay away.

But some won’t. They’ll wander off, figuratively, in search of entertainment and discover a renewed fondness for football or baseball or heaven knows what else. Maybe it won’t even be intentional. But they’ll be gone nonetheless. And they might never come back.

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