Will you be watching tonight?
It's Saturday night in January, meaning if you're not watching Hockey Night In Canada, you're not a real hockey fan and you should be immediately be deported to a sissy European country of Don Cherry's choice.
Or so it was, before the National Hockey League locked out its players last fall, bringing about the fourth labour disruption in the last 20 years. The spat between the millionaires (the players) and the billionaires (the team owners) didn't end until two weeks ago, when, with the whole season in danger of being wiped out for the second time in 10 years, a deal was cut to divide annual league revenues (a fancy way of saying the money fans kick into the game).
It's been hilarious to hear commentary on the sports networks and the CBC about how the fans are coming back and all is forgiven.
Considering how much TSN, Sportsnet and the taxpayer funded Mother Corp. depend on NHL hockey for their annual revenues through advertisers (and viewers), what else did you expect them to say?
The only thing more ridiculous was to listen to hockey analysts throughout the fall trying to explain labour negotiation tactics, votes by players on disbanding their union, U.S. antitrust laws, trade practice regulations, revenue-sharing structures and other complex legal and financial issues attached to the lockout as if they actually understood what they were saying.
And if hockey fans truly do flock back to the game like they did the last time (sorry, I'll be watching NFL playoff football this weekend and maybe a little Australian Open tennis), well, they get the league, the players and the greed-fuelled labour strife they deserve.
As I wrote back in the fall, the players and owners need a lesson they'll never forget about how they plan to spend the money of their fans before it is even given to them.
In the summer of 1994, Major League Baseball players went on strike in the middle of the season. There was no World Series that year for the first time in 90 years and the players and owners didn't settle their differences until the following April.
Baseball fans showed the players and the owners who's really in charge when play resumed for the 1995 season. Fan attendance was down an average of 20 per cent across the entire league.
And it didn't get better in 1996.
Fans only came back in 1998, thanks to the steroid-fuelled assaults on Roger Maris's home run record by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.
Did baseball get the message? You decide. Number of Major League Baseball labour disruptions since 1994: zero.
How much hockey do I plan on watching this season? Not one single minute.
How much money will I spend on NHL merchandise this seasons? Not one dime.
If I didn't have to follow sports news as part of my job, I wouldn't read a word about the NHL this season.
Save your money and use the spare time you've enjoyed since October to keep doing what you were doing without NHL hockey - reading books, watching other sports, spending time with the family, going to the gym, catching up on household projects, trimming your toenails.
Don't be fooled, hockey fans. The players and owners need you far more than you need them but they won't figure it out until you turn your back on their game and keep your wallet in your pants for a while.
Boycott Night in Canada starts now.
Call it Hockey No More.