We could have printed another entire People's Voice with tributes to and discussion of Pat Tillman, but with all due respect, we want to move on to less serious pursuits ... like the state of hockey in Canada.
Canadian (and worldwide) readers flooded us with opinions on Gary Bettman and the future of the NHL. There was no lack of passion on the subject. We'll also get to Roger Clemens and Tayshaun Prince.
As always, thanks for all of the feedback. My responses are in italics.
Now on to the People's Voice. ...
CANADIAN HOCKEY (April 26: "Woe Canada")
As a Canadian hockey fan I cannot agree more with your article "Woe Canada." You have put your finger nicely on the pulse of fans from north of the border. Gary Bettman has done so much to de-purify the game, Canadian teams are floundering and a lockout next year seems inevitable. However, it is still the most exciting time of the year for most Canadian sports fans, and we cross next year's bridge when we come to it.
I agree so much with your characterization of Bettman. He has trashed and destroyed a once tradition-laden game. The Campbell and Wales Conferences, Adams, Norris, Smythe, Patrick Divisions ... those names are all links to hockey's Canadian roots, to the men who lived and died seeing to it that the game was held in high regard. Who cares about the western conference champions (capitals omitted on purpose – no need to capitalize generic names)?
How about the old days when the Blues and Blackhawks knocked-down and dragged-out every regular season game? Now there are no rivalries – just a bunch of guys in suits trying to make the game more "fan friendly." Give me the Flyers against the Bruins in a best of seven. Give me the old Battle of Alberta in the Smythe Division. That is fan-friendly – for fans who grew up watching the game when we had hockey people making hockey decisions.
Hockey used to be a team of men playing against another team of men. Now it is corporations and suits in court against lawyers and TV rights. And it is a damn shame!
Grow up please. It is just a bunch of crap when you sportswriters make comments about a so-called diluted talent pool of players because of expansion. There are literally thousands of excellent talented players worldwide, more than enough for all the teams to pick and choose. If it weren't for expansion I would not even be a fan let alone watching hockey since my favorite team is and always will be the Sharks.
San Antonio, Texas
If you like hockey now, you should have seen it before Bettman.
You hit the nail right on the head with your article on Canadian hockey fans. Hockey is not just a sport up here in the Great White North; it's a way of life. Canadian teams have many obstacles to overcome that American teams never even have to think about such as exchange rates issues.
Bettman has turned his back on the heart and soul of hockey and is one of the main reasons the game is in such peril. Without hockey it is going to be a long, cold winter in Canada. What do we have as alternative, curling?
Let's be honest now. Gary Bettman is just following the lead of the rest of the incompetent commissioners that run our cherished sports leagues ... Bettman was a product of David Stern. Need I say more?
It is time to get rid of Bettman and replace him with someone who has worked on both sides of the rink, like Mario Lemieux. What do you think?
I'd welcome new leadership, especially if he (or she) brings back the Adams Division, Campbell Conference and so on. My biggest problem with Bettman is that for more than a decade he has made nonsense, slap-in-the-face-of-tradition moves (remember the ridiculous glowing puck?) and arrogantly told core fans that we should trust his marketing genius and watch the sport grow. Well, quality of play is down, television ratings are down, prices are up and we are doomed for a lockout. Maybe we all knew a bit more than he thought.
I wish more reporters had the "you know what" to take it to Bettman like that. I hope he receives a copy of this article. He has done nothing but run this wonderful game into the ground. I think the fans need to "lock him out" – take away that key to the beautiful office he was given as commissioner. He has not earned my respect, but my disrespect.
The NHL has never been and will never be the NBA. If you want to change a game, change basketball or any other sport. Old Time Hockey is what the true fans crave.
Los Angeles, Calif.
It's hard to have a whole lot of sympathy for Canadian hockey fans after watching them boo the national anthem of the United States during the Boston-Montreal series. I was so proud of the fans in Boston for not stooping to that level.
The booing of the U.S. national anthem was classless. And yes, the Boston fans' response (a standing ovation for "O Canada") was tremendous. But it was a small segment of the Montreal crowd at just one game that did the booing. If it were more widespread or repeated each night, then I'd be more offended.
You cannot place the blame for the decline in the quality of hockey or all the other many problems with the game at the feet of Bettman the Puppet.
Who pulled the strings? The owners who pocketed millions in expansion fees? The players and their agents who greedily demanded salaries far in excess of market realities? The stupid greedy owners who foolishly met those demands thinking they had possession of the proverbial golden goose?
The stupid customers who line up year after year and pay outrageous sums for tickets to these boooooring games? The terrible officiating (puppet referees marching to the Head Puppet's dictums)?
There is plenty of blame to go around. Until the idiotic paying customers cease to be customers, the merry go round will continue.
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
You absolutely hit the nail on the head. I don't think you could have written a better article about how Canadians feel about what is or has happened to their favorite game.
It's time for somebody to rise up against Mr. Bettman and take him out of office. I have always said baseball doesn't need contraction as much as hockey does. I hope many people read your article and get a sense of what hockey used to be, and what it should be.
The NHL's biggest problem is that it betrayed its truest fans, not just in Canada but also hockey hotbeds like New England. If this lockout gives the league the serious scrubbing it so richly deserves then I am all for it.
Being a Habs fan, I used to hate the Nordiques. I even hated the Oilers because they were so good. Now I'd just like to see a Canadian team in the finals. Do you think an extended lockout will kill some small-market American teams?
I'd hate to see any team go under because of all the people (stadium employees, local restaurants, etc.) who would lose their jobs. Thinking purely as a hockey fan however, six to eight fewer teams would be great.
Being a lifelong Flyers fan, it's not the same watching the Nashville, Columbus Anaheim, etc. games. Even longtime rivalries (Rangers, Caps, Bruins) aren't what they used to be. Teams are too diluted. The scheduling is unattractive. Used to look forward to Blackhawk, Blues, Detroit games. Now you see them one time. If Bettman is responsible, who is responsible for keeping him in office?
Here in Québec, hockey analysts are speaking often about how great hockey was when Montréal played against the Québec Nordiques. The rivalry was so important. The only French province in North America was split between those two hockey teams.
Rivalries are what hockey, or any pro sport, is all about. Baseball wouldn't be baseball without a Red Sox-Yankees rivalry.
Bettman didn't help his sport with all the modification. People aren't interested in games such as Nashville-Anaheim. The NHL should make a contraction. Anaheim, Nashville, Carolina, Florida, Atlanta don't deserve a NHL team. They are actually a disgrace to cities such as Winnipeg and Québec where their respective arenas were sold out every time, despite losing records.
Gary Bettman and the Count from "Sesame Street" ... could they have been separated at birth?
One expansion team, two expansion team, I love all this counting ah, ah, ah.
ROGER CLEMENS (April 30: "Rocket's hot start is over the top")
Roger Clemens is an a__hole. After everything that fans, players and sportswriters did for him when he said he was going to retire he should be ashamed. Did he give back all the retirement gifts given to him, or at least donate them to charity? "Hey, thanks for all the neat-o cars, press articles and such. But, heh, I changed my mind. Sorry." What a boob. If I were a sportswriter I would find it hard to make a big deal over this two-faced lying knucklehead.
New York, N.Y.
If journalists stopped writing about "two-faced lying knuckleheads" there would be a lot of very short sports columns. And political writers would become extinct.
"One foot out the door"? Heck, Clemens already had driven to the station and caught the K-train heading into the sunset. Who knew he'd leap over to the express train heading back to the ballpark?
It sure would have been nice if Clemens weren't the "too heavy to liftoff" Rocket his last few years in Boston.
There is no doubt Clemens is one of the great pitchers of all time. But I hope he gets a fastball between the eyes when he plays the Mets because he deserves it.
Sherman Oaks, Calif.
TAYSHAUN PRINCE (May 4: "This Prince is no pauper")
You are astute in Tuesday's comments concerning T. Prince. If Reggie Jackson's spurt of enthusiasm earned him the nickname "Mr. October," then our Prince is approaching "Mr. Spring." He certainly has upped his game in the playoffs and has significantly more spring in his step.
Dr. Richard Klein
Prince is playing incredibly. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Until he delivers in the finals, he isn't Mr. Spring.
Let me ask you this: Did stockpiling great players help the Mavericks this season? Point is, I like the Darko Milicic selection. Detroit was already good, so he has time to grow. Plus, LeBron James is without a doubt better than Carmelo Anthony; it's just a fact. So the only guy that you couldn't pass on was LeBron.
Jon Carl Rosario
St. Louis, Mo.
- Gary Bettman
- Roger Clemens