Gary Bettman’s Lack of Fandom Is Ruining Dreams

 

For the longest time I felt it appropriate not to publicly release the identity of my childhood team. But for the purposes of this article, I’ve decided to “come clean”.

Growing up in the Bay Area during the 1990′s meant that my childhood involved playing an enormous amount of street hockey. The Mighty Ducks trilogy and the expansion San Jose Sharks created a boom of kids playing what many of us now believe is the best sport in the world.

In fact, I wrote this article on the matter of hockey being the greatest sport less than a year ago.

Unfortunately for us die hard hockey fans, our sport’s greatest league is commissioned by a man whom I am convinced did not grow up as a fellow fan.

I have no true evidence to back this statement up, and this is purely conjecture. But just how can commissioner Gary Bettman have the same little kid inside him that us true hockey fans have?

Let me paint the picture for a moment here. The date was April 8, 2004. I was in seventh grade and my Sharks were back in the playoffs after an abysmal 2002-03 season. I had never been to an NHL playoff game before but my two older brothers were taking me to game one of the playoffs. Our Sharks were hosting the hated Chris Pronger and the St. Louis Blues.

Could a 12-year-old be more excited? First ever playoff game, no parents, just the brothers and it’s the playoff opener? I had my jersey on, my hat, and my face was painted with black and teal tiger-like stripes. Needless to say,  I was stoked.

Now since I was still a wee lad, my memory isn’t the greatest, but there are two specific portions of the evening that I’ll never forget. The first of which came even before the drop of the puck.

Shortly before the opening face-off, the public address announcer got the attention of us fans. He then told us to stand up and start waiving our rally towels as he counted down from seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, and then we went live on ABC across North America. Television cameras captured the insanity of the San Jose crowd. The arena was absolutely electric. It was a sight that kids dreams about being a part of: an absolutely bonkers sporting arena celebrating their home team’s return to the postseason by whipping around their rally towels.

As awesome as the opening cheer was, nothing beats the way the game ended. The energy from the pre-game festivities built and built and built as a 0-0 game went into overtime. About ten minutes into the first OT period Niko Dimitrakos picks up a loose puck in the corner. The right wing then cuts to the net and  buries a wrister top shelf, over the glove-side shoulder of Chris Osgood. The FOG HORN goes OFF! The Sharks win!

To this day, I have still never been in attendance for a louder/more crazed atmosphere than I was that night. My memories of that game will last a lifetime.

But more importantly they are memories that I hope generations of kids will be able to form for themselves. Unfortunately each game lost in a potential lockout are childhood memories lost forever. There is no way of knowing what game will inspire what child, but each NHL contest has the ability to make a major impact on adolescents. Just one game has the ability to make a child a fan for life.

Now as the great William Shakespeare once wrote, “To sleep, perchance to dream.”

Makes one wonder, did Bettman ever dream as a kid? Did he dream of hoisting the Stanley Cup over his shoulders? Did the NHL owners backing Bettman dream the sweet dreams of hockey glory?

Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.

Hockey fans forgave once. They won’t forgive again. If a second season were to be completely lost, the NHL will not recover. Not for many, many years.

And even a minor work stoppage for the second time in eight years would do significant damage. Young athletes are going to choose to play  a sport where the professional league actually plays their games. So yes, there is still plenty to lose even if the season were to start in December/January.

What stings the most about this CBA dispute is the owners got their way after the last lockout. They got the salary cap system they wanted.

And yet now they want to take more money away from the players?

Makes you also wonder if Bettman even cares that he is booed every single time he presents the Stanley Cup at the end of the season.

Does he have the same 12-year-old memories that you and I have? I sincerely doubt it.

 

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