TAMPA - There you have it; there, right there, that single sen tence of propaganda is the smoking gun. It captures all of the arrogance and all of the ignorance of the Gang on Sixth Avenue. These suits truly believe they invented the league. These suits think hockey began when they broke the NHLPA, instituted the hard salary cap and introduced the Sixth Avenue League.
These are the Grinches who have stolen hockey. These are the people who not only have no regard or respect for the history and heritage of the league - which, Ms. Mansur, began operations in 1917 and not 2005, and is in its 89th season, not second - but spend every waking moment attempting to eradicate any connection between this game and these players and the great tradition established long ago by the hockey warriors who came before.
They don't think they can sell the great game of hockey to the masses that have no connection to the game, so they instead present a pre-fabricated spin-off in an attempt to drive ratings. They have come up with "Joey" rather than "Friends," and instead of driving ratings, they are driving away the hard-core, longtime fan who craves passion, confrontation, and yes, even a fight or two between bitter rivals, but instead are presented with an endless succession of indecipherable penalty calls, parades to the box, and exchanges of power plays.
The hard cap was supposed to solve everything, remember? But now there is the fiasco in Pittsburgh with the Imperial Commissioner desperately attempting to keep the Penguins from relocating to Canada, even if he doesn't care if they move anywhere in the United States.
The hard cap was supposed to solve everything, remember? But Slap Shots has been told there are serious financial issues within the Nashville ownership group. Indeed, according to a pair of sources, the Predators may soon become a candidate for relocation to Kansas City.
The hard cap was supposed to solve everything, remember? But now it's the schedule that's supposedly to blame for pockets of empty seats just about everywhere, so the league might dramatically realign again.
The hard cap was supposed to solve everything, remember? But instead of tickets becoming more affordable, as the Imperial Commissioner pledged, they have become more expensive.
The hard cap was supposed to solve everything, remember? But now there's still not enough scoring and the nets might have to be enlarged.
The hard cap was supposed to solve everything, remember? But now they're even going ahead and changing the uniforms for next year. The uniforms!
Gary Bettman and his gang on Sixth Avenue would rather have Sidney Crosby wearing that eyesore new uniform of a small-market team in the States than of any team in Canada because Bettman - or his crack marketing and PR executives who have done their jobs so well- thinks that's the way to best capitalize on this remarkable teenager.
Bettman doesn't get it. The history of the NHL - the history that began in 1917 and not last year - is one of marquee and dynastic teams and of snarling rivalries. People wanted to see the Rocket, but they went to watch the Canadiens. People were drawn to Mike Bossy, but they went to see the Islanders. Bobby Orr was the greatest ever, but people went to see the Big Bad Bruins. Wayne Gretzky had star power like no other hockey player before or since, but people wanted to see the Oilers. Through the late '90s, people wanted to see the Red Wings and the Avalanche.
Mike Babcock, coach of the Red Wings, was talking the other day about how the NHL needs to find the way to sell the game to the mainstream fan, and he mentioned the Yankees and Red Sox as examples of why baseball is so popular. Sam Flood of NBC was talking about how ratings would be helped if New York and Detroit could go deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs.
But the collective bargaining agreement and punitive hard cap is meant to prevent teams like the Yankees and Red Sox from existing. The gang on Sixth Avenue doesn't believe in marquee teams and they don't believe in the power of big markets.
They think the league is in its sophomore season. They are the Grinches who have stolen hockey. It is past time they give it back.