Ask hockey fans how they’re coping with the lockout, and they’ll direct you to the AHL, junior hockey and the upcoming college hockey and ECHL seasons. Others have found livestreams of various European league games. But they’ll all tell you that it’s not the same as watching their favorite players on NHL ice.
The other day, a rumor floated around that the league was thinking about using replacement players, mostly to try to break the NHLPA. That was laughed away rather quickly, and for good reason.
For the league and the owners, using replacements would be a financial disaster. Yes, there would be some stubborn people holding onto season tickets who wouldn’t want their money to go to waste, but the majority of season ticket holders would demand a refund. Then you have other people who buy tickets game by game – but they would be few and far between. Add to that the fact that advertising would wane due to lack of interest in the games, and you’re looking at a big loss of revenue.
But the biggest reason is in the stands. The fans of NHL hockey, watch their teams faithfully. They go through their ups and downs. But even when their teams stink compared to the other 29, they stay with them. More importantly, the players become family. They feel their elation over hitting career milestones and cry with them in defeat. They agonize over trades and welcome new players to the roster.
If replacement players were put in place of the stars and regular rosters, it wouldn’t be right. It would feel like a huge betrayal, a slap in the face of the men hockey fans admire. I don’t watch the Chicago Blackhawks to see the average guy put on the Indian Head sweater, I watch them to see Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews wear it. I don’t want to see average hockey, I want to see hockey that will keep me on the edge of my seat. I want to see the best hockey players in the world on NHL ice. Anything less is not the same.
Simply put, an NHL team who uses replacement players is an NHL team in name only.
Last year, I came across a quote that sums up how hockey fans feel about their teams: “I’ve always sworn my life would never revolve around a man. And yet somehow, my life has come to revolve around 23 of them.” If I can’t watch those 23 men, I won’t watch their pseudo-dopplegangers.