By - Keith Smith
Gomer Pyle once said, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."
That's sound advice. Something I've tried to live much of my adult life by.
What I can't seem to figure out, though, is why the NHL has such a hard time understanding that, sooner or later, the rest of its fan base will start adhering to this philosophy as well.
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The league has now embarked on its fourth work stoppage in the past 20 years. Now, I'm no mathematician, but even I can figure out that this is an average of once every 5 years.
The previous stoppage, which cancelled the entire '04-'05 season, was probably as costly as any has ever been in any sport.
At that time, hockey was experiencing perhaps its most widespread popularity in history. The NHL had a very lucrative television contract with ESPN and Fox, and while purists like myself hated it, that goofy blue-turn-red-when-the-shot-was-hard-enough streak that followed the puck on Fox gave even the most casual fan the ability to keep up with the game on TV (no small feat).
But after losing the entire season (the first, and currently the only major sport to ever do so), upon their return, the league was relegated to the Versus Channel, crowds were very slow to return, and all that hard work to build the sport's popularity was virtually erased.
Cut to 2012, and here we are again.
At the beginning of summer, the Los Angeles Kings finished off a spectacular season by winning the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history. The entire West Coast and a large portion of the United States were cheering for them, and the sport was beginning to get its U.S. fan base back.
If fool me twice is shame on me, fool me four times may very well signify, "goodbye."