Over the weekend, the National Hockey League should have been entering its ninth week of the season. While ESPN's front page for the NHL touts their collaboration with EA Sports on an innovative simulation, no video game highlights package can cover up the fact that the NHL, having canceled their season through mid-Decmber's All Star Break is in a precipitous position.
When the NHL announced that it was canceling the All-Star Game, the season should have already been under way. In truth, this has been a long time coming. Some hockey fans might even claim that it's a leftover remnant from the last lockout.
The poll results on ESPN's article, although far from scientific, speak strongly to people's beliefs that there will not be a hockey season this year. The commissioner of the NHL, Gary Bettman, has taken his fair share of the blame for this lockout, but there will always be those who look at the situation from the outside and think any players refusing to play a game for thousands - or hundreds of thousands - of dollars are the greedy ones. With the NHLPA union chief, Donald Fehr claiming that the sides were close to working out a deal and the commissioner taking a hard line on the other side of the sand, though, it's hard to know what exactly is going to happen with this season.
Stars such as Sidney Crosby are reportedly looking into playing overseas which is a fantastic option to have if you're one of the most marketable names in the entire league, but doesn't help many more than the top ten percent of the NHL, at best. Having gone through the experience recently, NBA fans are familiar with, among others, JR Smith's delayed return from China and the troubles that might be associated with playing elsewhere.
The back and forth when it comes to hockey has been more of a constant than in other leagues, but that doesn't excuse the lack of progress by now. Bettman's palpable anger at the afore-mentioned press conference, where high school style sniping was reported on with trepidation, is merely the latest salvo in a war that's been waged since he took over as commissioner of the league. It's also a sharp reminder that the NHL is the only major sports league in America to ever lose an entire season - merely seven years ago, the entirety of the 2004-2005 season was lost to labor disputes. With rumors circulating on Monday morning that official confirmation could be expected as early as Monday afternoon that more games had been canceled, the NHL is teetering on the brink of, once again, furthering its own irrelevance and setting back most, if not all, of the gains that have been made since that lost season.