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Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016

Ice hockey chills rather than thrills

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Like most men, I'm a sports fan. I find myself following several sporting events though some have but a passing interest. One sport I dislike with a passion however is the friendly sport of ice hockey. Maybe it's because the sport is fairly limited to cold weather climates or maybe it's the violent nature of the sport. Whatever the reason, hockey is not on my radar screen.

Given that background, I was not overjoyed by the news yesterday that apparently ice hockey will be returning after the entire season was wiped out last year over a labor dispute. I would just as soon that both sides continue to argue until the league folded completely and the hockey rinks were turned over to kids learning to ice skate.

The bottom line is that hockey is losing money hand over fist. Fan support is loyal among a handful of faithful but far too few fans follow the sport and it's much less popular than bowling or surfing or lawn darts for that matter. Just in order to reignite yet another season, the players reluctantly agreed to a 24 percent cut in their salaries. That should give you an indication just how bad the business end of hockey has become.

But a truly interesting thing happened when last season was canceled. Television networks had to scramble to fill a programing void created by the strike. So in its place, the networks ran college softball and celebrity bowling. And guess what? - these fill-ins pulled in higher ratings than hockey. That, too, should tell you something about the sport.

In reading the details of the new labor agreement in hockey, I learned that the most recent league champion was the Tampa Bay Lightning. Who in the world would have imagined that Tampa Bay would be the mecca of ice hockey? And then again, who really cares?

If the television gurus were smart, they would continue with celebrity bowling and allow hockey to die a quiet death in places like Saskatchewan. And those immortal hockey greats - sorry I can't name one current player - would fade into obscurity.

The interesting aspect, of course, is that not too many people would notice and even fewer would care.

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