With all the political correctness of Merry Christmas versus Happy Holidays aside, it was the season to spread joy and good will to everyone around. Unfortunately for the National Hockey League, not everyone is obligated to reciprocate those feelings as last week, the league posted a greeting card on their Facebook page to wish their fans a happy holiday season.


Not smart.


In a gesture that was obviously made to look cute with some of the league’s mascots on the greeting card, most fans decided not to have any of it. While the card did receive 3,984 “likes”, the negative response was far greater as approximately 4,500 comments were made by angry, disillusioned fans who simply saw the situation as a golden opportunity to voice their true feelings about not only the status of the current work stoppage but of the NHL and even the NHLPA in general.


While a few fans expressed nothing more than their desire for hockey to return, most made no reservations in holding back, responding to the NHL’s gesture in both sarcastic and condescending fashions.


Ian Johnson posted, “Get bent you greedy pricks,” Renee Duca posted, “You have GOT to be kidding me! This is an insult to you fans... if there any left,” and Jason Britt posted, “Let me guess, the NHL’s gift to everyone is showing everyone how it’s the biggest failure in professional sports history?” Another fan, Sean Engles, wrote, “Glad you could take the time to post this yet you can’t schedule any talks to get the season back. Way to go jackasses.”


Although they are just a few, those comments should give you a clear idea of how fans feel about the NHL and everyone responsible for the current lockout. Many fans are angry and the ones who aren’t, aren’t so because they simply don’t care anymore and rightfully so.


Today would have marked another installment in the NHL’s annual Winter Classic and what a game it would have been. The Detroit Red Wings versus the Toronto Maple Leafs at Wolverine Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. One of the oldest, most storied rivalries in hockey continuing at a storied venue which just happens to be the largest outdoor stadium in North America with a capacity of over 109,000 all in a beautiful, quaint college town. I'm not taking anything away from the previous Classics but how could anyone possibly top this year’s version? The Winter Classic itself is a symbol how strong the NHL has become lo these last few years and to have the “greedy pricks” running the game shoot themselves in the foot is utterly embarrassing and sadly, not surprising in the least.


Something else that isn’t surprising is the fact that in reaction to the backlash, the NHL removed the greeting card from their Facebook page, which only underlines how spineless they are. The league was dealt a dose of reality when they saw how little their “fans” care and they just couldn’t take that.


Never mind that they have screwed their entire fanbase the last few months from leaving thousands of arena workers unemployed to having the most loyal of fans pay a bundle for tickets to games that weren’t even played while they sit comfortably, raking in their multi-million dollar salaries to meet for ten minutes every few weeks – but God forbid those fans would say anything bad about the NHL. Poor Bettman, poor Daly, poor Fehr – I guess their fragile egos just couldn’t take the abuse. Sorry boys but cowering for weeks at a time isn’t going to protect you.


The greeting card itself was nothing more than a prime example of how oblivious the NHL really is and how out-of-touch they are with their fans. Even if the league and the players’ association do reach a deal to salvage the season, both sides would be astonished to see how little anyone cares. Fans have said they’ll boycott the league and while some will, most will forgive and return to the game over time. But as of right now, it’s just not good enough. Something desperately needs to change. I don’t know how realistic it is to expect both Gary Bettman and union leader Donald Fehr to be fired but hockey fans cannot afford to dread another work stoppage every five or six years. Work stoppages are unfortunately common in any professional business involving a union but most businesses are mature enough to put whatever differences aside and get to work. The NHL just does not know how to do that and when you have worms like Bettman and Fehr running things, it comes as no surprise as to how terrible the NHL really is at conducting business.


Last month in New York after yet another episode where fans had their hopes up only to have them dashed by, who else, Bettman and Fehr, Gary Bettman had the audacity to name off some of the other work stoppages in North American professional sports history. If only Bettman remembered to mention that no commissioner was ever responsible for multiple work stoppages and none have ever caused the cancelation of just one entire season. Bettman is the precipice of two of them.


So, what’s wrong NHL? You can’t handle the truth? You can’t face the fact that no one cares about you or your ridiculous excuse of a league anymore? It’s tragic how all of your greed has led to this (justified) backlash and none of you are big enough to deal with it like adults. Of course, you’ve all proven that you can’t handle anything like adults so really, the outcome shouldn’t be any different.


Last month after said episode in New York, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly uttered the phrase “the hill we will die on.” As far as I’m concerned Daly, you can go ahead and climb that hill. All of you can. How dare anyone of you have the gall to wish anyone Happy Holidays. Did you honestly believe that fans would cheerfully reciprocate those feelings? Of course you did because you’re the NHL and you think so little of your fans that you don’t even know or even stop to consider how they might feel – but you got a harsh dose of reality last week, didn’t you? All the anger, all the hatred spewed your way, you deserved all of it, each and every one of you. In fact, reading the comments vindictively gives me pleasure. How terrible is that?


But as long as the NHL heads all have their hefty salaries (which none of them deserve), a few thousand bad words their way won’t affect them. Surely it would affect someone with honour and integrity but not the NHL – that thinking is just as wishful and as farfetched as believing that Gary Bettman will ever lose his job.




Photo: Courtesy of NHL/Facebook