U.S. media sticking it to the NHL

ERIN NICKS, Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 11:51 AM ET

Feel free to add the phrase "uphill battle" to the long and nauseating list of buzz words involved with the re-emergence of the NHL.

And be aware that the fans won't be the most difficult group to deal with. That unfortunate title already belongs to the American sports media.

When the news broke on Wednesday that the league and its players' association had reached a tentative agreement, it was easy to assume what the reaction in Canada would be. Watching the story emerge across the border -- where the majority of teams and significant income emanate from --was a different matter.

Who exactly has been broadcasting the lockout information to American fans -- ESPN or Fox News?

The sensationalistic "reporting" has been delivered with unwavering opinion, and the message is clear: The NHL, regardless of its imminent return, is a lost cause.

This is a loser's league that isn't worthy of anyone's support. The NHL is making its first attempt to climb out from the massive hole it created, but the American media is not content to simply throw dirt on them. They're trying to beat the league down with the shovel.

After being force-fed these negative opinions for nearly a year, you would have to assume that being a fan of the NHL in the U.S. is a highly covert operation.

If discovered, the brainwashed masses would likely whip fastballs at the fan's head, or poke them repeatedly with a golf ball mark repair tool. You know --to try and get them to accept a "real" sport.

Looking back on the early stages of the lockout, our country was sporting rose-coloured glasses in respect to the state of the NHL. That cautious optimism eventually morphed into a bitter and saddened realism.

However, it's safe to say that Canada, in spite of its disappointment, has never engaged in the type of brutal attacks that the league has been subjected to in the U.S. The perpetual pointed jokes, and questions of the NHL's remaining existence, were they really necessary?

The NHL has proven without a shadow of a doubt that it is more than capable of inflicting irreversible damage upon itself. What additional harm has the American media caused the league by insisting to its viewers that professional hockey will never survive?

The NHL needs to stop groveling for the respect of the American sports media, and it needs to do it now. In this battle of popularity, the media is the lost cause. How soon we forget that NASCAR started as a group that lacked respect from sportswriters (and practically everyone else), but through grassroots ingenuity became a force to contend with.

It's a new reality, but an old idea: You don't need respect to be a success in America -- you simply need money. The sooner that the NHL is able to discern the difference, the better off it will be.

HEADIN' WESTIN: According to the Sun's Bruce Garrioch, Ottawa will be awarded a scaled-down version of the NHL entry draft, to be held on July 30 at the Westin Hotel. Consider this the equivalent of waiting for a perfectly prepared steak to arrive, only to have it turn up at your table, resembling a shriveled up baseball mitt -- you try to be happy, but it's awfully difficult. Wasn't the draft supposed to provide a welcome economic impact for the city? Wasn't it a chance to prove that we had the facilities and vivacity to eventually pull off an all-star game? How is this to be accomplished by locking a handful of hockey representatives in a conference room downtown?

SIDE LINES: The performance by Pittsburgh Pirates OF Jason Bay at the home run derby can only be classified as cringe-worthy. Canada's lone representative at the mid-summer classic whiffed on everything thrown in his direction. And what better place to educate Americans about Canada than during a meaningless competition? ... Horrific moment from the all-star game itself: San Francisco Giants OF Moises Alou sticking his hands into the Fox camera lens during player introductions ... TSN reported that NHLPA executive director Bob Goodenow wasn't present at the negotiations Tuesday night and was in fact at the all-star game in Detroit. Based on the show that the American and National Leagues put on, it's obvious he was long overdue for that level of punishment.

erinnicks@yahoo.ca


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