Boots vs. the Fans
The saga of Boots Del Biaggio, Nashville, Gary Bettman, etc. is no longer news. Every website, newspaper, and podcast is covering the story. And having read/listened to most of it, I wanted to weigh in on an aspect I find disturbing.
The Fan 590, a sports radio station in Toronto that runs a lunchtime hockey show called – appropriately – Hockeycentral at Noon, features a journalist named Doug Farraway during the summer months. Farraway, like many of his fellow Canadians, has commented on the entire Nashville epic as events unfold. As is his right.
Like Farraway, I am disgusted and disappointed in the dealings of Bettman and other league owners involved in this mess. I am appalled by Del Biaggio’s underhanded methods. I hope the fallout prompts the league and all involved to make changes to improve future deals that involve the fate of entire franchises.
That said, I am equally appalled by Canadian journalists – like Farraway – who salivate over and pray for one of the franchises in nontraditional markets to fail so that Canada can have another team.
I am 100% in favor of Canada having more NHL teams. They love hockey passionately, and they deserve frequent opportunities to see the best players in the world live. I would be more than happy to see the NHL expand into the north.
But I find it incredibly disrespectful and shocking that these fans of the game rabidly call for someone else’s team to fail. While Americans may not have the same number of hockey fans per capita as our northern neighbors, those of us who are here love it just as much. We cheer for our teams, purchase fan gear, and rail at our cable providers to get Versus on our packages ASAP. We lament the lack of hockey on ESPN, and we question the intelligence of Mike Milbury and Pierre McGuire. And we have to work even harder than our Canadian counterparts to find the coverage of the sport we love because, well, there aren’t as many of us per capita.
But what matters is that we deeply, passionately love the game. Anyone who watched the first playoff round games in Nashville saw a fan base that raucously cheered for their Predators, willing that team to rally over the Red Wings in those home games. They showed their love last summer by showing up in droves to keep that team in Music City, and those fans deserve credit for that.
Don’t cheer for other teams to fail. If teams like Phoenix, Atlanta, Columbus or Nashville fall flat, maybe they will move to Canada. In the short term, Canadian fans will benefit.
But think about the bigger picture. Any team that fails hurts the entire league, whether the team is based in Canada or the US. It hurts revenue; it hurts league image; it hurts player salaries. No one wins.
We the fans – Canadian and American alike – win from a strong NHL with strong teams. 30 strong teams means expansion, means new teams in Canada, means new opportunities all fans across the league to see great games from great players.