By AJ Atchue
Too little, too late. That pretty much sums up the embarrassing last-ditch efforts of the National Hockey League and its Players’ Association to save their season last week. Trying to make up for five-plus months of wasted time in one week, all the sides managed to do was raise the hopes of hockey fans one more time, then punch us in the face one last time for good measure.
That came in the form of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s Feb. 16 announcement that the 2004-’05 season is frozen before the first puck even dropped. In a truly unprecedented move in the history of professional team sports, Bettman essentially announced that an entire season would be lost because the hockey industry cannot figure out how to divide its $2 billion in revenues.
In my relatively short life, the game has never looked so downright bleak. The on-ice product had already been in steady decline as teams, led by the New Jersey Devils, parked big defensemen in the neutral zone to hook, grab, and generally interfere with opposing rushes, stifling the type of offensive flashiness that really puts people in the seats. Right at this point of total downward spiral, Bettman somehow thinks the game will come out stronger than ever after a protracted labor dispute. Right.
Don’t get me wrong. The lion’s share of the blame for this mess resides with the pigheaded, na