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Sunday, November 18, 2012

'The Man in the Middle'

As Christmas nears and yet another set of games in the NHL Lockout 2012 one has to wonder now at this stage if there will indeed be a season this year after all. If there isn’t any hockey in the NHL this year will the game be able to recover from the damage it has caused to its ever loyal fans.

After the last lockout the game rebounded in Canada stronger than ever before as attendance in all Canadian cities grew as did season ticket sales. The most damage done was in the southern states in the US where again this year there will no doubt be another negative impact on this game we all so dearly miss Saturday nights.

There are a few fortunate cities around the hockey circles that are benefitting from the NHL Lockout though and they are those that teams in Europe who have recruited locked out players to help bolster their lineups and keep the players sharp as they wait word on their fate. There are also the AHL teams who have seen an influx of young players from the NHL being sent down so that they do not miss a whole year of development and fall further behind, but where does this leave the fringe player, the kid who has dreamed his whole live about becoming a pro hockey player only to find himself on edge day in and day out hoping that his club doesn’t reach out and sign any locked out players. The reality of a season being lost is not that far away and that is very evident by the number of players now starting to find homes with ECHL teams and push the bottom tier player out of the lineup and right back into the unemployment lineup hoping to get by week after week and believe me these players in leagues like ECHL, Federal League and so on do live cheque by cheque and do have to work all summer long as well as train and hope that they can make the jump and begin the road of playing in the NHL.

I have been a player on the bubble come lock out time and it is not a fun feeling. You are constantly watching the waiver wire and transactions wondering if your roster spot will be given away to a player making 2-3M if the lock out were to stop!

I am very impressed by the solidarity of the NHL players this year as they have stuck together as one unlike lockouts of before. They believe that they have to stay strong and united to ensure the future of the game and of the younger players in the league, just as they have fought long and hard for players of yester years, my issue and question here is why don’t they show the same support for the lower players, the guys living cheque by cheque and hoping to one day reach their status as one of the best players in the world.

These guys are travelling around the US and Canada on Greyhound buses not even able to collect Air Miles for God’s sake because they can’t afford to fly are the ones that need us and the help of the big guns. These players even though they are professional athletes themselves and some very much the same age are left in the dark and to fend for themselves. They fight night in and night out, they sacrifice everything they have and own for one chance to be at your level, they respect you more than anyone else on the face of the earth probably and WHAT kind of respect to they receive in return, absolutely nothing!

If there’s any good at all that come out of this here now it is that those players, the ones that you may all actually be wanting autographs from and watching on Saturday nights is that they finally get the respect they deserve from not only the management, but from their peers, the locked out players!

Be a difference maker this time around please, don’t just think of yourselves, think of the players who haven’t caught the break you did, that have had to hone their skills in the Federal League and slowly climb the ladder to the top. I realize that the GAME at that level is a business and after hearing and seeing all the numbers this time around it is a damn BIG business at that! However, if at all possible take a second to sit back and reflect on what is happening here during all of this, the damage caused to the fans, the communities, the businesses and the list goes on and on but PLEASE don’t forget your old College or Jr. buddy who is still tolling in the minors holding onto the dream of making it to the show one day as this is the problem that everyone overlooks!!!!

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