Hi! I’m writing these posts as part of a Write-A-Thon to benefit 826 Boston, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center for area kids at which I volunteer. If you want to make a donation, you can click right here. Thanks!
So there is a lockout and it sucks and everyone hates it.
The players all have to go play in Siberia and the fans don’t have good professional hockey to watch on national television and the owners lost $100 million by not having a preseason. Boo hoo. And so how do we remedy all these things? Or at least the ones that matter to the owners?
That’s right: Replacement players!
Or, to put it another way, “That’s right: Scabs!”
Yeah, apparently Bill Watters, who used to be somewhat noteworthy in hockey but now isn’t any more for reasons that will soon become obvious to even the uninitiated, floated the idea that the league might be preparing, at some indeterminate point in the future (either near or far), to begin hiring scab players to potentially draw fans fed up with this, the league’s second lockout in eight years.
This would, ostensibly, be done as a means of “breaking” the NHLPA’s resolve but would more likely accomplish pretty much nothing. Consider this: Which AHL players, apart from the old guys who have been around that league forever, would accept a job in the NHL as a scab, especially if they thought the PA might blacklist them for doing so, as the MLBPA did with guys like Kevin Millar back in 1995.
Again, the older AHL veterans have little to lose — they weren’t going to make it to the show anyway — and there would probably also be more than a few North American-born Euro-league veterans who might feel the same pull to return home, maybe make slightly more money than they are playing in Minsk or whatever, and so forth. When the real NHL players come back, they’re right back to Europe and generally unaffected by the whole thing.
But think about the quality of play here: older AHL veterans, European players, maybe a few guys who are technically NHLers but at the end of the road and looking for one last contract (Tomas Holmstrom, I’m looking at you), and that’s it. The owners would then expect fans, corporate sponsors and the like to come back and watch that in exchange for considerable amounts of money. Oh yes, I can just see folks clamoring to see Jason Krog come back to these shores and rain wholesale havoc down on the John Grahames of the world, or NHL.com repeatedly naming Brian Willsie as the First Star for December. The demand for that would be huge.
Say, what’s average attendance in the AHL? Call it like 6,000? That’s probably a bit lower than what whatever the Maple Leafs trot out would draw, or whatever, but how badly do you think empty seats outnumber fans to watch games between the Coyotes and Blue Jackets? Eight to one, or 10 to one?
For this to work, it would have to work league-wide, and Don Fehr isn’t a punk who’s just going to fold under this kind of pressure. Because he knows you’re not going to watch that replacement player garbage.
Don’t forget to donate to 826 Boston. Thanks again.