The braintrust that runs the NHL are yet again steering the league towards a labour stoppage. Despite handing out long-term contracts worth tens of millions of dollars, the owners cry poor. The players suggest revenue sharing to help those clubs losing money which makes sense to me as the league is only as healthy as its poorest teams, but the richer owners will have none of that. I'm so tired of these shenanigans that a glimpse of another headline on the topic sends me into a narcoleptic collapse. Still, these negotiations have an effect on me as I am planning my next big sports road trip during the upcoming season.
The Winter Classic in Ann Arbor is supposed the centerpiece of that journey, and I hoping to complete all 30 NHL rinks with stops in Boston, Raleigh, and Buffalo as well. Without a season, those destinations would fall by the wayside. Fortunately, other leagues have labour certainty, and the AHL has an outdoor game scheduled for Detroit on December 30th with the Marlies the visitors. That afternoon sees the Bears visit the Lions in a week 17 NFL tilt. So I've decided to go ahead and plan a trip based around the Detroit area at New Years, with that two-sport doubleheader as the centrepiece. If the NHL comes to its senses, I'll see the Winter Classic two days later; if not, then those three NHL rinks will remain unvisited as I will be boycotting the league for a very, very, long time.
What I expect to happen is for the NHL to follow the NBA model from last season: a relatively short lockout to scare everyone, a hasty agreement when they realize that fans have many more entertainment options these days, and a shortened schedule that begins just in time for the Winter Classic. If that scenario happens, the new schedule will leave me with little time to change plans, so I'll have to see how things work out, but regardless, once I have finished visiting all 30 NHL rinks, I'm going to leave the league in the rear view mirror. Two major work stoppages in eight years shows how little they care about the fan and I'll gladly spend my sports dollars elsewhere.
Anyway, here's the plan so far, with lots of time left for changes:
Fri, Dec 14 Albany Devils at Connecticut Whale (AHL) 7:00 Sat, Dec 15 St. John's Icecaps at Springfield Falcons (AHL) 7:05 Sun, Dec 16 St. John's Icecaps at Providence Bruins (AHL) 3:05 Sun, Dec 16 San Francisco 49ers at New England Patriots 8:20 Mon, Dec 17 Los Angeles Kings at Boston Bruins 7:00 Tue, Dec 18 Utah Jazz at Brooklyn Nets 7:30 Wed, Dec 19 Albany Devils at Bridgeport Sound Tigers (AHL) 7:00 Thu, Dec 20 Florida Panthers at New York Rangers 7:00 Fri, Dec 21 Albany Devils at Norfolk Admirals (AHL) 7:30 Sat, Dec 22 Anaheim Ducks at Carolina Hurricanes 7:00 Sun, Dec 23 Oakland Raiders at Carolina Panthers 1:00 Fri, Dec 28 Toronto Maple Leafs at Ottawa Senators 7:30 Sun, Dec 30 Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions 1:00 Sun, Dec 30 Toronto Marlies at Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL Outdoor Classic) 7:00 Mon, Dec 31 Rockford Icehogs at Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL) 6:00 Tue, Jan 1 Toronto Maple Leafs at Detroit Red Wings (Winter Classic) 1:00 Tue, Jan 1 Sacramento Kings at Detroit Pistons 7:30 Wed, Jan 2 Washington Wizards at Indiana Pacers 7:00 Thu, Jan 3 Florida Panthers at Buffalo Sabres 7:00 Fri, Jan 4 Reading Royals at Elmira Jackals (ECHL) 7:05 Sat, Jan 5 Tampa Bay Lightning at Buffalo Sabres 7:00
I still have a month or two before I need to book any tickets or hotels, so here's hoping by then that we have a sudden burst of intelligence in the NHL's head offices and the season proceeds as scheduled.
Update: As you know, there is a dearth of intelligence at the NHL's head offices. Why did I think otherwise? I have cancelled the entire trip and will be visiting Texas in February instead.
The Malaysia Cup is in full swing and Singapore has a team playing in the tourney, so I'll be heading back to Jalan Besar Stadium this Saturday to see Lions XII hosting a team from Johor Bahru. Check back next week for a recap of the game.