Finally someone with the intestinal fortitude to tell it like it is. Over the weekend Bobby Orr put pen to paper (more likely keyboard to byte but no one has come up with a catchy little way of describing the puter revolution yet) and fired off a treatise to the Sunday Lawrence Eagle-Tribune. ( click on sports to view the letter, after April 25th click on their archive and select sports to view the letter)
In his letter he put both Gary Bettman and Bob Goodenow in their place, suggesting that if they can't get a deal done then they should step aside (or as he put it "get out of the way") and let people of good faith sit down and hammer out an arrangement to get the game back on the ice. Orr observed that neither side seemed to interested in cobbling together a fair deal.
It was a passionate plea for some action before the gave slips further into the irrelevance that it has thus far. Orr rightly points out that this protracted grandstanding by both parties is putting the game of hockey in serious peril. This game is not ingrained in the American psyche as football is, baseball still has it's romantic past which occasionally rises above its steroid and greed fueled present and basketball has a core of fans that keep it going as the fairweather fans drift in and away from the game.
Any of those three sports would most likely survive a year long shutdown, in fact the NFL did and became stronger afterwards though it took a bit of union busting to accomplish that. Baseball has had numerous stoppages over the years and only now is beginning to sort out its attendance and television woes. Basketball had a bit of a dip with the Jordan retirement but seems to have re-invented itself as a team oriented game, where the five men on the court make the difference not necessarily one man. All are finding success in their markets and are financially sound. But hockey is not part of the culture in the States and if this mess continues much longer there may be a cost to be paid in Canada as well.
Spring is here and a hockeyless spring is introducing the hockey fan to other pursuits, the golf course beckons the cabins and campgrounds are almost open for the season. Sitting around the home or in a bar to watch hockey used to be the thing to do in Canada, with a year off from the obligation one wonders how many will return next year.
All of which makes Orr's points even more vital for the powers that be in hockey to consider. As a player agent many might find it a bit self serving on his part as of course he has money to be made with hockey back in play. But one thinks that his is more a plea from a hockey guy who fears for the state of the game that gave him a career and one which he always loved. Orr said he hesitated to speak out loud before as he had hopes that things would progress towards a solution, but with both sides scheduling meetings to just trash the other side that doesn't seem to be on the horizon, hence his contribution this weekend.
Good for him to now step up and say what needs to be said. Maybe now some other powers of hockey will add their voices to his chorus to spur this thing onto a solution. Solve this mess or "get out of the way". Once again Orr showed the leadership that made him famous and is sorely lacking these days. Those are wise words from number 4, lets hope they're ones not to be ignored!