Hockey Strike, apathy – and a bigger question

I may as well admit I am indifferent when it comes to hockey, or major league sports in general.

On the other hand, it's impossible to ignore this sport's hold on the Canadian psych. Or miss signs of "Sens Fever" in Ottawa.

San Jose Shark (and Ontario native) Andrew Desjardins caught in a yawn. Photo: Dinur Blum, CC some rights reserved

So, mine is mere cultural interest.

Still, I was taken aback by a recent poll that said a majority of Canadians surveyed don't care if the current player/owner hockey dispute reaches an agreement this season.

Yup, a full 58% basically said "meh" too.

Interviewed by Brad Zeimer of Postmedia News, Brian Owen, CEO and founder of NRG Research Group expressed his own surprise at that number:

"My conclusion is that the fan base is a narrower segment of the (Canadian) population than I had initially thought and that maybe the assumption that Canada is hockey-mad applies to maybe 25 per cent of the population as opposed to 100 per cent of the population."

Owen said the poll result can not be encouraging news for the NHL or its players.

"When 58 per cent of the population say they don't care, there is a high level of indifference and the people responsible for the game have to be aware that potentially could grow if they don't get this thing solved."

Prime Minister Harper and President Obama have separately scolded both sides for their lack of progress, to no avail. While the U.S. has more professional teams than Canada, general indifference south of the border has to be even higher than in Canada.

Some complain the player/owner stand-off is just a power game between millionaires and billionaires. Even die-hard fans are turned off by what looks like a contest in selfishness.

It's worth noting there have been more developments this week. As reported by CBC, the players have voted to dissolve their union, which (apparently) would permit anti-trust action against the NHL. That would:

"…follow the lead set by NFL and NBA players, who both dissolved their unions during lockouts last year. The NBA's labour dispute ended less than two weeks after the union was disbanded.

The Canadian Press reported on Saturday that Canada's Mr. Hockey, Don Cherry, is now feeling optimistic for a mid-January half-season, which he thinks could still be a good one.

"They will go to the brink and then settle," said the 78-year-old. "Nobody in their right mind would kill the goose that lays these golden eggs."

On a side note though, the hockey impasse is just one of several seemingly intractable fights in which observers wonder who is in their right mind?  Such as America's looming "fiscal cliff". Or persistent disagreement between proponents of gun control verses 2nd Amendment supporters.

Why does it seem like the ability of opposing sides to craft agreement – or consider compromise – has become so rare?

In politics, that difficulty is sometime attributed to gerrymandered districts, and I think that's a significant factor. But what accounts for such a counter-productive impasse in something like the NHL dispute?

Is this a lack of negotiating skill? Some failure of maturity as each side plays 'all or nothing'?

Or are some issues so diametrically opposed that there is just no chance of meeting somewhere in the middle?

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5 Responses to “Hockey Strike, apathy – and a bigger question”

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  1. Newt says:

    One thing I don't get is why the players don't organize alternative games . For example, the Lake Placid Olympic Arena is not booked 24-7. Pee Wee and High School teams use it for games, for heavens sake. Would it not make sense for players to scrape together a couple of dozen guys and have a game for charity? It would get a ton a media attention, paint them as the good guys, maintain fan loyalty,help keep the players sharp, and mostly put pressure on the owners. These could be replicated around the league. Even outdoors, if necessary. If you freeze it, they will come.

    I am not a hockey fan. One the happier days of my recent life was when my son saw the light and quit pee-wees (no more dawn trips to the frozen innards of North Country semi-otdoor rinks, or freezing my butt solid in the penalty box in earn volunteer hours. Ugh!), but I feel l bad for those who love it. Mostly, it is curious to me that that nothing is done by players to develop alternatives and keep things going. I guess they'd rather sit around and eat up their savings, if they have any.

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  2. This is the nightmare scenario for the barons of the NHL. Angry fans shouldn't worry them. Anger dissipates with time. Apathy is much more troubling.

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  3. Pete Klein says:

    Perhaps people feel very little sympathy for the economics of all professional sports because all are grossly overpaid, owners and players alike.
    Same might be said of most all in the entertainment business in general.
    All belong to the 2% and most belong to the 1%.
    I feel so sorry for the lot of them.

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  4. Frank says:

    It's not that Canadiens aren't hockey fans they just aren't NHL fans. It's the same in the states.

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  5. Pete: I agree but don't forget that many people have jobs related to these industries. The guys who clean bathrooms in the arenas. The guys who sell hot dogs. The equipment managers. The guys who work in restaurants/bars near the arenas. Nearly all of these folks are part of the 98%.

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