It was all but inevitable. Still, when NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman officially pulled the plug on any hopes for a hockey season, it was treated as big news by most newspapers. Which is supposed to happen when a sports league, even one a distant fourth like the NHL, for the first time cancels an entire season because of a labor dispute.
The New York Times put the lead story on A-1, and had two inside sports pages devoted to the cancellation. Worthy and meaty coverage from a newspaper that doesn't always send its beat writer to all Rangers road games -- instead relying on freelancers and stringers -- and occasionally has even used AP for Islanders and Devils home games.
How much coverage the NHL's hari-kari received depended on where you sipped your latte. Big-city papers with teams in all sports, like the Chicago Sun-Times and Miami Herald had dutiful and thoughtful coverage, three or four stories and columns that are split on who to blame. The Sun-Times' Jay Mariotti was especially venemous ripping into Black Hawks owner Bill Wirtz for his rose-colored, clueless view of the lockout. http://www.suntimes.com/output/mariotti/cst-spt-jay17.html.
Then there was the Columbus Dispatch, which had no less than 12 stories devoted to the cancellation, not surprising when the only major-league team in town is shuttered. However, if this went down during Ohio State football season I suspect it might have been relegated to a brief on B7.
And surprise, surprise, Canadians en masse are not laying prostrate outside the Hockey Hall of Fame bemoaning their fate. Much to their amazement, life marches on, even if the nation's puckheads still long for their heroes to be on ice instead of iced. Still, The Toronto Star's Damien Cox says the season that wasn't is a case of destroying the league in order to save it -- in a good way. http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1108595412173&call_pageid=968332188492&col=968793972154&DPL=IvsNDS%2f7ChAX&tacodalogin=yes.
Less sanguine is the Edmonton Sun, which warned that all the shrugs of indifference by fans yesterday could translate into a lack of fannies in those expensive seats if and when this thing is ever resolved. http://slam.canoe.ca/Slam/Hockey/NHL/Edmonton/2005/02/17/933757.html.
Indeed, the prevailing sentiment in the Great White North is a pox on both of your houses, perhaps best expressed by Jack Todd in the Montreal Gazette:
Now one season is down the drain and the league itself teeters on the brink. There is more than enough blame to go around. No matter how they try to spin it, both sides made enormous, perhaps fatal miscalculations. Both thought the other would buckle under the threat of losing a season or more; both thought they could come out of a prolonged and vicious dispute with a good deal.
Both were wrong.
Spring training arrived in the nick of time.