PlaceMats

The Times had an interesting article on baseball and steroids and strikes and how fans really don’t leave sports, no matter how crappy things get.
So I’m thinking the NHL must be wallpapering this article all over the place. Then I get to this line:

    What this means for the N.H.L., now approaching a full year without play, is a little murky. Hockey fans are famously intense, if not all that numerous, and they may well come back as strong as they did after the last lockout. Then again, the only other recent work stoppage to cancel the playoffs was baseball’s 1994 strike, which was clearly damaging.

So it seems pretty clear that the NHL needs to come back with some kind of product next season. Not that that’s a guarantee everything will be dandy for the league. But any kind of return will at least bring back some fans.
LA Kings President Tim Leiwek cryptically told the LA Times that hockey will be back next season. He didn’t say how, though, which kind of makes it seem like the league is thinking about replacement players pretty seriously. Larry Brooks seems to think the league might be able to shake loose some lower- to mid-tier NHLers, especially given that the Players’ Association executive committee is meeting at Pebble Beach, while the players are broke and freezing up north. Lockouts are hell, eh?
I still wonder how easy it will be to get these replacement players visas. Tim Panaccio wrote about this last month and all of his arguments about the logistical difficulties of replacement players still seem pretty true to me (login info.).
This week, Panaccio has an interesting column on how NHLers are tainting European hockey with their brutish, thuggish behavior.
At least no one can blame NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman for that one.