If you ever needed an example of how small town the snow globe is in which the NHL resides, look no further than the continual braying about the cancellation of the Winter Classic.
Look, it’s a nice game, even if it’s largely irrelevant in Canada where it gets lower ratings than a regular season evening on Hockey Night in Canada.
In the US, the ratings have been decent for a sporting event, but declining. The game attracts what a pleasing college football game would get on most fall Saturdays.
But it stands out so much in the provincial world of the NHL because those who run it have been so inept in selling the league, you’re left wondering if these guys could market free gas.
In relative terms, one good idea like the Winter Classic in the NHL is equivalent to the Marlboro Man.
Sure, it is an effective, if modest, commercial for hockey, especially with the HBO component. But 3.6 million viewers for one afternoon a year is not going to be the tide to budge the sinking franchises which hang around the neck of the NHL like a cinder block necklace.
If the NHL depends on the Winter Classic to win over peripheral fans, the league is in more trouble than anyone thought.
The owners cancelled it. So what? With the amount of outrage spinning out of various media you’d have guessed the NHL stripped the Boston Bruins of their most-recent Stanley Cup, and put rings on Ryan Kesler, Alex Burrows and Max Lapierre instead.
Fans shouldn’t care. It was always the owners’ baby. It was their schmooze fest. And when they take it out at the knees, the owners are the only people who should pay it any mind.
Even if you swoon for the inherent romanticism involved in playing an NHL game outdoors, you won’t swoon forever. The Winter Classic always had a shelf life. There’s only so many times NBC will allow the NHL to dip into this well, and a finite number of venues where it will work.
Detroit will get its game. Heck, it could be this year. The NHL could easily un-cancel it in the next couple of weeks.
If not, the league has already cancelled 326 games. What’s one more?
This is hardly a disgrace, or worthy of anyone spiralling into a frothy fit. The hoteliers who lost their bookings will be just fine, thanks.
The only disgrace is this current cat fight over 3 per cent to five per cent of hockey-related revenues, in a league with record revenues, which is just bitter enough to put the entire season on the brink.
If the Canucks are looking to splash something on their currently useless $5 million Rogers Arena scoreboard, may we suggest:
Thank you, Kevin Lowe.
After The Province recently revealed the Edmonton Oilers were the surprise latecomer in the Roberto Luongo sweepstakes, Lowe stoked the fires by admitting publicly he’s not exactly overwhelmed with confidence when he looks at his situation in net.
“Goaltending is a question mark,” Lowe admitted in a radio interview. “And I say that in all respect to Devan Dubnyk and Khabi (Nikolai Khabibulin). Khabi has been injured and he’s approaching 40.
“He’s given us stretches of strong goaltending but his health is one thing.”
On Dubnyk, he continued: “He’s got to go out and prove it now if he’s going to take over the No. 1 job.”
Luongo, well-informed of the Oilers interest, did his part by giving the “Edmonton questions its goalies” storyline a deft tweak by donning one of his vintage Grant Fuhr Oilers’ masks and posting it on twitter for Halloween. Trick or treat?
Sublime stuff, really.
Brian Burke must have loved it.
Despite reports, a deal between Toronto and Vancouver for Luongo isn’t done, which is why Vancouver’s assistant GM Laurence Gilman and senior adviser Stan Smyl were in Abbotsford this week, scouting the Toronto Marlies.
Coincidently, Burke and his lieutenant Dave Nonis were also in attendance. Of course, the teams aren’t permitted to talk trade during the lockout, though if they did, who would ever know?
Most people still believe a deal with Toronto is going to get done. The Leafs need a goalie, maybe desperately so. There is one veteran, sure-thing starter available. The Canucks like several assets in the Toronto organization, including Tyler Bozak, who they believe could step in and be their third-line centre. The obvious trade remains obvious.
But Edmonton certainly helps steer the leverage needle toward the Canucks.
It may seem improbable the Canucks would deal in their division, but it’s not impossible. Using one hypothetical, if the Oilers were to offer Jordan Eberle, the trade is done, pending Luongo’s approval.
And don’t be so sure Luongo would say no, given the Oilers collection of young talent and the opportunity to stick it to Vancouver six times a year.