With all the serious events which occurred over the last few months, I wanted to try to lighten things up by looking at what has become a joke of a league - the NHL.
During the last twenty years there have been three work stoppages in the NHL. The first came in 1994, the season after the NY Rangers won their first Stanley Cup in more than fifty years. The NHL was riding a wave of popularity with Wayne Gretzky in LA, the Rangers as Stanley Cup champs, Jaromir Jagr driving the Pittsburgh Penguins and a young goaltender named Marty Brodeur about to enter his prime.
And then, the league locked out the players and the season did not start until January 1995. The season was shrunk to nearly half of its usual length (48 games) and the fans shrugged their shoulders and watched basketball instead.
Nine years later the NHL again locked out their players after they could not come to an agreement on an extended Collective Bargaining Agreement. This time, there was no mid-Winter compromise and the 2004-2005 season was cancelled. When an agreement was finally reached, the league also hammered through some competition rule changes which included the use of shootouts to settle regular season games (instead of ending in ties). The resultant product was more exciting, but the fans and players lost a season of hockey.
After the LA Kings finally won their first Stanley Cup last spring, the league again locked out its players. As of my writing this post, all NHL games through New Year's have been cancelled and other than hockey purists, no one seems to care.
A few weeks ago I was in a sporting goods store with one of my daughters and I said to one of the clerk's - when is there going to be hockey? He pointed me to the hockey merchandise. I said to him - no, when will there be any hockey games. Although he worked in a large national sporting goods store he was clearly oblivious and he responded to me - they will start playing games in a few weeks.
What the NHL fails to understand is that by cancelling games they do more than just hit the players in the wallet. They deprive people of their livelihood and drive fans away from a sport which could use all the exposure that it could get. While the ultimate dollars and sense is certainly important, the prospect of cancelling a full season for the second time in less than a decade, threatens to make hockey irrelevant.
So to return to the reason that I started this post, I saw an article which made me laugh, even though it is more pathetic than anything else. As was reported in the Yahoo Puck Daddy blog (http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nhl-puck-daddy/leafs-joffrey-lupul-discovers-nhl-lockout-extends-restaurant-224713372--nhl.html) an NHL player was denied service at a sports restaurant in Toronto which is owned by the Maple Leafs. The reason given by the restaurant is that during the NHL lockout, the team may not permit the players to have access to any of its facilities, including team owned restaurants. The player joked in the article that it is OK for the restaurant to sell jerseys with his name on them for $300 a pop, but he can't get a reservation at the restaurant. I had to wonder whether the Cablevision owned NY Rangers had cancelled service to any Rangers player.
The humor of the story and the fact that the team's lack of perspective on service at the restaurant made me think of a story that Rabbi Frand told last Thursday Night about R' Aharon Kotler and Joe Bonanno. During WWII, some boys from a yeshiva had tried to escape Europe by crossing through Nazi allied Italy. They were captioned and imprisoned and faced certain death. R' Aharon Kotler and R' Moshe Sherrer went to Joe Bonanno to see if he could use his influence in Italy in order to obtain the students' release and safe package. During this meeting, Joe Bonanno asked R' Kotler for a brocha (blessing). R' Frand stopped his telling of the story and asked the audience - what kind of brocha can you give a murderer? He continued the story and explained that the blessing given by R' Kotler was that Bonanno should die in his own bed (as opposed to prison or at the hand of an enemy).
While this may not seem like a blessing to you or me, it was very valuable to Joe Bonanno. (The story concludes that twenty years later a limo pulled up in Lakewood as Bonanno's son wanted a similar bracha. However at this point R' Aharon Kotler was long deceased). Still it is a strong indicia of the power of perspective.
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