The Peerless was on his way to Hershey last evening, so we missed the missed (or misplaced) action in the Ottawa-Buffalo game. But having heard about and read about what transpired . . . well, for all the blather about how well the NHL is doing in attendance, for all the piffle about “action figures,” for all the cook-the-books numbers the league and its assorted franchises are spewing that are meant to lend credence to the thought that the NHL is back, we have as cold and as hard a reality check as there is.
Ladies and gentlemen, we will leave you now to bring you the Preakness pre-race show. You can follow the action on Versus.
Allan Muir paints the portrait for us over at SI.com. All The Peerless can say is, thank you, NBC, for that cold splash of water in our faces. Hockey is now a rung (or two . . . or three) below the pre-event show for a sport whose popularity pretty much ended when Secretariat left the field in another time zone in The Belmont Stakes in 1973. I don’t blame NBC – they have a business to run. But the League? Spare us the crap about how your revenues are up, how teams are selling out their arenas. Give-aways inflate attendance numbers, projected revenues this season will be no more (in 2004 dollars) than they were for the last year before the lockout, and the Red Wings – the Dee-troit freakin’ Red Wings – can’t sell out a playoff game.
Here is the chilling fact for hockey fans looking for a shred of optimism – the NBC deal was the best deal the NHL could get for a national network in the U.S., and when push came to shove, when an elimination game in the championship semi-final was headed to overtime, NBC chose to cover an event characterized by women in gaudy hats.
And for you old-schoolers out there . . . you can count the years left when playoff games go to overtime on one hand, with fingers left over. The shootout is coming. The future arrived yesterday.