Haggerty: The Bruins opening night that should have been

Haggerty: The Bruins opening night that should have been
October 11, 2012, 5:43 am
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BOSTON -- Tonight should have marked the start of another raucous journey with a Bruins team that holds the best chance to bring Boston its next world championship.
It should have been every bit as compelling as the last five years have been for the Bruins organization a span thats seen them become rock stars in Boston again for the first time since the 1970s golden era.
The Boston Bruins should have been taking the ice for a nationally televised game against the Broad Street Bullies in Philadelphia.
They should have been kicking off their campaign of great vengeance and furious anger after getting unceremoniously booted by Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals in the first round of the playoffs last spring.
Tyler Seguin should have been continuing on his pathway to becoming the next big superstar on the Boston sports scene, and about to go supernova in his third NHL season as so many other NHL stars have before him.
Milan Lucic should have been breathing fire on the ice while atoning for last years limp playoff performance, and showing everyone hes worth every cent of his hefty new 6 million per year contract. The Bruins should have been finally getting on with life without Tim Thomas while their exiled goalie prepares for the end of days in his Colorado bunker.
But instead the Big Bad Bruins have scattered to the four corners of the world.
Rather than populating Charlestown and the North End, they are strange hockey players in strange lands wearing unfamiliar hockey sweaters in exotic European locales. A year ago the Bruins were raising a new Stanley Cup championship banner to the rafters after an unforgettable playoff run. The local fans were even softening to the visage of owner Jeremy Jacobs after long holding him as the No. 1 reason Boston had never won another Cup after the golden age of Bobby Orrs Bruins teams.
But all of that has been sullied by the leagues second work stoppage in the last eight years, and their fourth labor dispute in the last 20 years.
Instead, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and Jacobs the powerful NHL Board of Governors Chairman have both become the picture of greedy gluttony while holding fans hostage as they shake down the players for every last silver piece.
The loge and balcony seats at TD Garden will be empty rather than rocking for Bostons home opener against the hated Habs on Oct. 18 a game thats now a historical footnote after getting whacked along with five other games to start their season.
It takes two to tango, of course, and the NHLPA hasnt put forth their best offer either despite the cancellation of games.
But only Gordon Gecko would be proud of a group of NHL owners squeezing the players for 18-20 percent pay cuts after the league raked in a record 3.3 billion in revenues last year. The owners are locking the players out, and two weeks worth of games have already been cancelled including the season-opener against the Philadelphia Flyers. Another two weeks worth of games will be cancelled within the next week if the NHL and NHLPA cant bridge the billion dollar gap that remains between the two sides.
Lockouts and threats of work stoppages have essentially become parliamentary procedure in CBA negotiations for professional sports leagues.
One only needs to look at the difficulties that both the NBA and NFL survived last year when their agreements were up. But its different with the NHL, and by extension its different with the Bruins.
The National Hockey League has lost 1,780 games due to work stoppages since 1992. Major League Baseball (983), the NBA (504) and the NFL (0) combined have lost a little more than half that number over the last 20 years. The NHL gets no benefit of the doubt in work stoppage situations. The league has continuously shot itself in the foot over the years when it could have been building an undying loyal fan base combined with a likable group of assets in the players.
"We hoped it wouldn't be as confrontational as the last time around, but obviously that wasn't the same sentiment on the other side," said Andrew Ference before he left Boston to play in the Czech Republic. "We're getting into this rut where we're almost a joke. Every few years we've got to revisit the same thing."
Both the Bruins and the NHL have enjoyed skyrocketing momentum and unparalleled popularity over the last few seasons. Theyve hit jackpot after jackpot with the Winter Classic, the 247 HBO series and their new partnership with the NBC Sports Network over the last few years. But theyve also taken their oft-abused fan base for granted one more time, and continue to act the part of the no-good boyfriend in the latest Tori Spelling Lifetime made-for-TV movie.
Theres every reason to believe the NHL and the players will get their act together by December at the latest, and there will be Bruins hockey in Boston this season. This fight is strictly about splitting up the money pie, and that can be resolved.
Its not the philosophical battle for the salary cap that cost the NHL an entire season eight years ago.
But Jeremy Jacobs, Gary Bettman and the rest of the NHL purse-holders are playing with kerosene-soaked matches each time they choose profits over paying fans. Eventually even the most ardent hockey fans will move on and decide to spend their money elsewhere leaving the Board of Governors with the hollow husk of a league that could have been great.
The silence from the empty yellow seats at the Garden is deafening, and is forcing their fans to move on with their lives.
That will be the regrettable, lasting legacy of the NHL hawks if they continue on their current path to mismanagement and self-destruction.