Hey, angry NHL fans: go read about the history of leadership in IndyCar and tell me exactly how bad you have it. I’ll wait.
You’re not actually going to do that, so let me enlighten you in a brief way. In 1994, CART, as it was known, was a very well-known racing series run by its owners. It was able to steal sponsorship dollars away from NASCAR and nearly on par in driving talent with the esteemed Formula 1. Then, Tony George, owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that hosted the Indianapolis 500 (the series’ biggest race), decided he wanted more influence and created a new series, the Indy Racing League, when the owner-led CART wouldn’t cave to his demands.
The result was, starting in 1996, one series with all of the top drivers and teams but no crown jewel (CART) and another with the biggest race in the world and a series of scrub drivers (IRL). Seriously, the IRL was so bad that some of the teams couldn’t even afford to paint the god damn cars a single color. (See above.)
For 12 full seasons, both series operated against one another on many of the same race weekends, systematically dismantling any goodwill the sport had built with fans as teams began to shift from CART to the IRL and both series developed wildly divergent racing formulas. In the end, CART, led by its owners, made many idiotic decisions, from going public to funding some of its own racetracks to hiring some CEOs with the business sense of a brain damaged koala.
In 2008, the IRL bought out CART, then known as Champ Car, and imposing an inferior car formula and only six weeks to adjust on the remaining teams. In short, it was a disaster. The combined entity, IndyCar, still struggles to attract sponsorship dollars and fans, partially because “the split” created a vacuum in American driver development that NASCAR filled. A sport that attracted international attention six months of the year just 20 years ago now only makes headlines on one Sunday in May and whenever that race’s winner appears on The Late Show.
You’re not going to want to hear this, NHL fans, but the people involved in this lockout actually do know what they’re doing. They know damn well. They’ve done it before, and quite frankly, the last time they did it, the moves that were made actually improved the game. Little has been established to deter them from doing it again, especially because there’s no major alternative North American league for the players to depart to. (It’s not like the World Hockey Association launched last time.)
The point is, you can bitch and you can moan, but there’s nothing you can do, hockey fans. Call Gary Bettman an idiot all you want, but keep something in mind: the owners are steering the ship. The inmates are running the asylum. But you know what? There are some far dumber people out there, and if you think these folks are going to listen to you, you’re among them.
If you want to make a statement, stop talking about the NHL lockout. Go watch minor professional and college hockey. Put the NHL out of your mind entirely, as much as you and the owners both know that you’ll come crawling back as soon as a deal is signed. Keep your thoughts to yourself, because nobody’s listening anyway.
And remember: it could be worse. It could be a lot worse. Your beloved NHL isn’t about to split in half.