Fans react to Winter Classic cancellation with disdain


Fans react to Winter Classic cancellation with disdain

Hockey fans are both the smallest and most loyal fan base in the four major pro sports.

Theyve returned to the NHL in record numbers since the league reached its nadir in calling off the 2004-05 NHL regular season due to labor issues, the first pro sports league to call off an entire year.

But they returned to a faster, sleeker, more exciting NHL and helped build the league up to a 3.3 billion business last year. The fans supported outside-the-box initiatives like the Winter Classic and the HBOs 24:7 series and the league managed to wrangle itself a 2 billion deal television deal with the NBC Sports Network despite meager national ratings compared to the other three leagues.

But with the NHLs expected Friday afternoon announcement that the Winter Classic game between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs has been cancelled, the NHL and NHLPA have finally drawn blood in negotiations. It seemed that the collective hockey world barely blinked at the first two months of the NHL regular season being cancelled. After all its the least profitable quarter of the regular season and most of the problem NHL franchises (Florida, Phoenix and New York Islanders etc.) are saving more money whacking games rather than playing to empty houses.

Its a bloodless calculation of business and leverage for the NHL owners and a jihad-like fight for rights for the NHLPA, and theres been no middle ground achieved at this point. The big losers are the arena-area business ownersemployees and the fans deprived of league leadership working on faith, long-term vision and a genuine love for the game. But the oft-abused fans are perhaps reacting a little differently than they did eight years ago when the NHL imploded an entire year, and that should be a major, major worry for the NHLs bean counters.

The ticket-purchasing public isnt angry for the most part. Theyre not ranting and raving like puck-head lunatics. Instead theyre equal turns apathetic and uncaring, and theyve simply turned the page on the NHL to other things. Maybe its the NBA or the NFL, or maybe its an up-and-coming sport like MLS soccer.

Maybe its something else entirely in the Internet age where there are so many more alternatives for people with disposable income. But whatever the case it looks like the hockey fans are washing their hands of the NHL, and those are the casual connoisseurs that have built the league into a burgeoning revenue monster. That should be a prime concern for the NHL because those are the kinds of fans that wont return to the game when it finally does return next year, two years from now or five years down the road.

Heres a sampling of the fan reaction sent to my twitter account after multiple reports came down that the Winter Classic was about to get squashed:

@Beantownswifty: Not shocked that the Winter Classic is cancelled... @NHL is showing its true colors and its a disrespect to the fans.

@jbehindtheglass: For me, it's sobering; a mirror of the society it provided a distraction from. The "greatest fans" are sheep with wallets.

@eheels10: I guess apathy, because I just don't give a darn about the NHL anymore.

@papakav1: Disgust, will now spend the dollars on college, jr, and prep hockey. No time left for NHL.

@KnobbyBurton: It's disappointing but on the bright side it will give me more free time to start watching TheWire and BreakingBad

@SOURCE_FRIAS: I think after todays announcement a lot of die hard fans will be at the "Who cares anymore" mood as I am.

@gorskic: Repeating myself: This seasons Winter Classic was as good as cancelled the day it was announced. Resigned. Frustrated.

@The_Real_StephK: At this point, apathy. This league will never grow to its potential if this is how little they care about their fans.

@crowleyrules: the seasons probably lost. I had a root-canal'd molar extracted earlier, but the nhl has officially ruined my day.

Listen up, NHL. Those are your ardent fans and theyve been driven to the point where they dont care anymore. Coming off the stoking of those lockout flames eight years ago, something you dont want to do is see how far you can push before it ends with a permanently fractured league.

Celtics-Cavs Game 4 preview: C's expect an aggressive LeBron

Celtics-Cavs Game 4 preview: C's expect an aggressive LeBron

CLEVELAND -- Marcus Smart made shots, Jonas Jerebko (10 points) outscored the entire Cleveland second unit by himself, and Kevin Love’s hot hand in the first half cooled off considerably in the second.

It was on so many levels the perfect storm for the Boston Celtics in Game 3 which ended with Avery Bradley getting a friendly bounce or two – OK, it was four bounces to be exact – that would be the difference in Boston’s 111-108 Game 3 win, which cut Cleveland’s lead in the best-of-seven series to 2-1.

But that perfect storm is now a thing of the past, which is why the Celtics are battening down the hatches for Hurricane James – LeBron James – in Game 4.

James scored just 11 points in Game 3 on 4-for-13 shooting.

Certainly, Boston’s defense had a role in James’ struggles.

But after looking to be a facilitator at the start of the game, James never flipped the switch to become a terminator.

So, as his teammates struggled with their shots in the second half, James didn’t ratchet up his aggression level to get buckets and in doing so, was just what the Celtics needed to get a much-needed victory.

Had Boston lost Game 3, this series being over would have been a mere formality with no team in NBA history has ever rallied from a 3-0 series deficit to advance to the next round of play.

But the Celtics are very much alive and well with a chance to even up the series at 2-2 with a victory tonight.

If they are to somehow find a way to beat the Cavs on their home floor a second straight game, it’ll most likely come after fending off a strong surge from James.

This season, James has been an offensive power following games in which he has scored less than 20 points in a game.

In the following game after he scores less than 20 points, James has averaged 27.8 points.

And his record in those games during the regular season was 10-3.

“He’s going to be aggressive,” said Boston’s Avery Bradley. “LeBron James understands how to play the game and he understands what his team needs from him. He’s most likely going to be a lot more aggressive. It’s our job to make sure we defend him as best we can; take other guys out of the game.”

Like Tristan Thompson who had 18 points but only took four shots (he made 3) to get it, as most of his scoring came from the free throw line after getting fouled.

“He had 12 free throws or something like that? He’s playing well for them,” Bradley said. ‘We have to try and limit him to less rebounds. It’s going to be hard. If we’re able to do that and guard the 3, I like our chances.”

Boston’s Al Horford anticipates seeing not just James but the entire Cavs roster try to be more aggressive at the start.

And that means as good as they did in Game 3, they’ll have to be even better tonight.

“On the defensive end, we feel there’s definitely a lot of room for improvement,” Horford told CSN. “We just have to come out and play.”

In Game 3, Boston fell behind by as many as 21 points but for the most part stayed within arm’s reach of the Cavaliers which was a major improvement over Games 1 and 2 in Boston.

And as the Celtics continued to climb back into Game 3, James’ lack of impact plays remained a mystery.

And while there are some who are quick to put Sunday’s loss on James, not surprisingly his coach sees things differently.

“We're all to blame,” said Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue on Monday. “We lost; it happens. For a guy who played great for five straight months, he's got to have a bad game sooner or later. He's human. He didn't shoot the ball well. It wasn't his ordinary game. But Kevin (Love) and Kyrie (Irving) had it going early and they played well, so it kind of got him out of rhythm a little bit in that first half. That's no excuse. Like I said, they played well, but we've just got to play better, be more physical.”

After reviewing the video from Game 3, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens was once again impressed with James for the most part making the right basketball play most of the game.

“When you've got guys that are all on fire the way they are, the right basketball play is to find them,” Stevens said. “He just made it over and over.

Stevens added, “The guy is a tremendous basketball player. He makes the right play over and over, and he thinks the game, he sees the game. He's a really good defender. He can read situations. So, I thought he was pretty darned good. But like I said (following Game 3), I'm not going to be critical of the best player in the world.”

Indeed, Stevens has far more important things to worry about, like bracing his players for the impending storm known to all as LeBron James.