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NHL dispute has left hockey fans in the cold

Hockey fans living in Martin?

Not likely, but on occasion a few make their way from other portions of the state and country.

I’ve even counted a few Red Wings jerseys out there, but I won’t hold it against you. At least you have a love for the game.

But, at any rate, our televisions, radios and rinks have fallen silent because of a labor dispute.

No matter who you side with in this disaster between the NHL owners and the Players’ Association, no sports fan can argue that the individual team or player is more important than the game itself.

The Stanley Cup playoffs last year were overshadowed by the talks of the looming Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) talks that every analyst worth his weight in creative alliterations knew would not go well.

Even so, few of us thought that we might lose the entire season over the words “salary cap.”

There is no doubt in my mind that the current economic system cannot and will not work for the leauge to remain viable. It is a true tragedy when less money is lost by leaving the seats empty than by running a full season.

Craig Leopold, owner of the Nashville Predators, said it best: “We need a new system to turn the business plan around. It is no secret that this company, despite our low payroll and playoff sellouts, lost money last year (for the fourth straight year).

“We’ve gone forward with the understanding that we need a new CBA, a new competitive system, to make this business viable in the long term.”

The players’ union response is that the owners are simply not negotiating unless the proposed solution includes a salary cap, which is something they’ll “never” accept.

So who do we side with?

Simple answer: the fans.

The players don’t stand to lose much in this charade, and the owners have already said that not playing is actually saving them money.

The only ones who lose are the fans, which may be the most tragic thing that could happen to the sport.

At this point, I would pay to see 18-year-old kids take the ice tomorrow night if a game was scheduled.

Put them in Predators uniforms, call up Detroit and let’s have a game.

Tennessee thrives under successful sports franchises, be it baseball, football, basketball or hockey.

Even when the dollars and cents of it don’t balance out, the boost in pride and morale of the citizens is immeasurable.

But this deep freeze will probably last quite a while.

All the while, we will sit in our recliners or in our local sports bars until our team takes the ice again, hopefully sooner than later.

Salary cap or not, drop the puck!

Stephen Yeargin is the executive editor of The Pacer, and really, really misses hockey right now.