The blame game has been a big part of the current NHL lockout. Is the league at fault? The players? Both? Believe what you will, but one thing has been made certain: the players want to play. They miss the game and they know their fans miss it, too. Need proof? Consider the slew of pick-up and charity games that have been popping up recently.
Spurred by a request from TSN’s Cabbie Richards, Mike Richards and Andrew Ladd organized an impromptu street hockey game in Winnipeg back on November 13 (similar to what Brandon Prust did in Montreal back in October). Richards tweeted out to his followers that he’d be on top of a parking garage at The Forks and all were welcome to join him for a game. About two hundred hockey lovers, both young and old, came out to play.
Four days later, the two players participated in a charity game also held in Winnipeg, and were joined by Jonathan Toews, Shea Weber, Duncan Keith, and other NHLers.
This past Saturday, November 24, Scott Hartnell and Brad Richards put together Operation Hat Trick, a charity hockey game in Atlantic City to benefit the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
Big-name players such as Steven Stamkos, Henrik Lundqvist, and Marty Brodeur, among many others, came out to help the cause (Lundqvist even flew in from Sweden to be there). Early estimates of funds raised for Sandy relief from the game were in the $500,000 range.
Here’s the thing. These guys took the time out of their schedule to come out and play, to put on a show for the fans, and for what? Nothing more than just wanting to get back out on the ice and play, to give the fans what they’re so desperate to see. Sure, participating in charity games is doing something for a good cause, but the players could have just donated money. They could have attached their names to a fundraiser and helped out that way. But no, they played. Because that’s what they want to do, because that’s who they are.
And what did the league do about Operation Hat Trick? Donate money? Donate time? No, they allegedly asked NBC not to broadcast the game. God forbid hockey fans who weren’t able to make it out to the game actually be allowed to watch it. What a joke. That’s just bush league, but it’s what’s come to be expected of the NHL.
The 10,000-plus fans that were in attendance — a record sellout crowd for any hockey event at Boardwalk Hall — to fete Operation Hat Trick chanted, among other things, “We want hockey! We want hockey!” The players finally gave it to them.
Your turn, NHL.