Fans Need to Send a Message
NHL Senior Executive Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell issued a one-game suspension to Rangers Head Coach John Tortorella for squirting a fan with water and then throwing the water bottle at the fan. And, despite the rantings of hockey buttheads like Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy fame, the situation was mishandled, as usual, by Soupy.
Wyshynski would have you believe that the punishment fit the crime, and that’s what you would expect from the usual lame analysis from Wyshynski . The true statement is that the punishment fit the financial objectives of the NHL.
From the outset, let’s make it clear, I am a long-time Rangers fan but I am not a fan of Tortorella. I openly condemn his actions. While a HUGE fine to Tortorella and the Rangers was in order, hockey fans need to understand two things. First is that a suspension serves the business interests of the NHL. Second is why Soupy must accept blame for mismanaging yet another incident.
Let’s examine Soupy’s “as usual” screw-up first. Even if you put aside Campbell’s well-documented inclination to stick it to the Rangers every chance he gets, there is an issue in law called proximate cause. Proximate cause refers to the specific action that ultimately results in an outcome. Lay people may understand the principal better from a related term called mitigating circumstances, which is actually justification for somebody responding in an incorrect manner.
There are no mitigating circumstances in what Tortorella did. His exchange with the Washington fans was totally unprofessional, unacceptable and contrary to everything he preaches. However, the proximate cause of the situation was the lack of response by Capitals’ security to complaints from Rangers’ bench personnel about spitting, cursing and threatening behavior from the fans near the bench.
Again, the behavior of the Capitals’ fans and the lack of response by Capital’s security does not justify or mitigate Tortorella’s actions. However, do not be fooled … Soupy’s suspension of Tortorella was well-calculated for maximum impact against the Rangers. Soupy needs to explain why he only took action against the Rangers and did not punish the Capitals and their fans.
The end result is that Soupy, by only punishing Tortorella, rewarded the Capitals and their fans for their poor behavior.
That subtle message reinforces the acceped belief that Campbell and his oblivious boss, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, are not managing a sport but are promoting a business. The sooner hockey fans realize this, the sooner they will be able to reclaim their beloved sport from the clutches of these two satanic officials.
The NHL Playoffs are cash cows for the league, play-off teams and TV networks (currently NBC and Versus). Ticket prices go through the roof and TV reveues increase dramatically for the brief playoff season. The current play-off year is killing the NHL coffers. With Montreal gone in four games and Calgary on the verge of elimination, Vancouver is the only Canadian team that has made it to the second round. The Canadian TV market for Stanley Cup Playoff hockey is going down the drain fast.
Another problem for the NHL is the New York TV market for NHL hockey is a major enigma. The Devils, despite their success, cannot build their fan base and only sell out games against local rivals. The Islanders, who have done horribily over the last two decades, cannot fill their arena. The Rangers have a large and loyal fan base, but we are fickle fans because we have seen just one successful Cup quest in 69 years.
While there are more hockey fans in the New York area than in any other American city, the number of fans produce an actual TV viewing audience in terms of Neilsen ratings that is almost negligible (unless two local teams are playing each other). There are more people watching infomercials in the New York market than a hockey game.
Also, New York fans do not care about the other teams; in fact, fans of one team truly hate the other two teams and rarely will ever watch them play. In reality, the elimination of New York teams from play-off contention is good business for the NHL because there are other markets with better potential.
The second issue from a business point of view is that the NHL does not generate star-quality players with a personal fan base like other sports. Most people can name handfuls of stars from each of the other three major sports: the NFL, NBA and MLB. Hell … the average person could name more professional golfers than NHL stars. Other than Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, who is catching the imagination of kids around North America?
And that is why Soupy’s decision to suspend Tortorella was good bsuiness for the NHL. First, Tortorella benches fan favorite and team spark plug Sean Avery in Game 5; even chalking that up to coach’s perogative, the negative effect on the team’s performance was predictable. Then Tortorella follows that up with a stupid move that results in a suspension to Tortorella and no action against the Capitals. Campbell and Bettman, unless they are bigger morons than most people think they are, had to know that end result would be a Rangers loss in Game 6, forcing a Game 7 in Washington.
Other than the obvious fact that a Game 7 in Washington will be the biggest hockey event in years, it will be against the hated New Yorkers. That means good TV ratings and better advertising revenues (even if it is on the fledgling Versus). It also gives Alex Ovechkin a chance to win and keep on playing into the second round.
If you doubt what I am saying here, watch and see what action Campbell takes against the biggest jerk playing in the NHL, Donald Brashear of the Capitals. He is a player with absolutely no skill and less intelligence than skill. In case you missed it, Brashear blind-sided Blair Betts of the Rangers with a cheap shot, knocking him unconscious. Of course, the two referees and the two linesmen caled it wrong, so there was just a two-minute penalty against Brashear. Like, what else is new?
As for sending a message, please join me in boycotting the NHL’s web site. Even if you are an out-of-control addict, stay away for two or three days. Also, boycott as many games on TV as you can … I boycotted today’s game, getting my updates online, and apparently I didn’t miss very much. But hockey fans must do something that gets Bettman and Campbell out of OUR sport.