For those who know me, I am not a political kind of guy. But one thing that is debated over is the trickle down theory of economics and whether it is good or bad. Don’t worry…we are not going down that road in the way you might be thinking. I am not going to try and explain what the trickle down theory but here is a definition courtesy of our friends at Wikipedia: “…the idea that…economic benefits provided by government to businesses and the wealthy will benefit poorer members of society by improving the economy as a whole”.
You are probably asking how this pertains to this blog and to my special interest in hockey. This pertains to hockey because it is related to the NHL Lockout that may or may not occur in less than two weeks. Now you must be very confused wondering, “But Gootzy, how can a lockoutm where there is no economic activity, be related to the trickle down economic theory which implies growth?”
Actually the lockout situation could be a perfect example of when a certain kind of trickle down effect is positive. For hockey, and I am talking about the sport in general, this could be a major boost to the whole system. If NHL players are out of work they will look to play elsewhere to fill the void and help pay the bills and support their family. Some will go to the American Hockey League because of their affiliation with NHL teams. But for those who are not offered big contracts in foreign leagues or cannot go to the AHL without passing through waivers, minor league hockey is an answer. Leagues such as the East Coast Hockey League and the now defunct United Hockey League all got boosts from NHL players joining rosters of teams during the 2004-05 lockout. Attendance went way up in these leagues. I saw it first hand in Danbury when Mike Rupp signed with the Danbury Trashers. I went to a game where they would play the Motor City Mechanics, who had signed Chris Chelios, Derian Hatcher, and Sean Avery to play. Despite the fact they did not play that night, the rink was packed to the gills in anticipation of seeing some NHL talent in a minor league setting.
Who is to say that this may not happen again? The ECHL has gained in popularity and respect as a league and may attract players. The Central Hockey League is now in the Midwest and Western parts of the country. The Southern Professional Hockey League dominates the southeast of the states and, yes, the Federal Hockey League is holding its own in the the Northeast.
I understand it is unrealistic that NHL stars will look to sign in lower level leagues. Obviously they are going to be looking for pay that is more than these teams can afford and minor league hockey is not the glamorous lifestyle of chartered flights and nice hotels. But the common thing I have seen from all players, no matter what level of hockey, is that they love to play the game. It is their job and they absolutely love what they do and will do anything to play it.
Who knows what will happen? This is not to say I am expecting Sidney Crosby to suit up for the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL or Henrik Lundqvist to come to the Danbury Whalers to play goalie. But do not be surprised if players from the NHL move down to lower leagues. Even if they do not go as low as places like the FHL or SPHL, players from the AHL and ECHL will be pushed down because of the arrival of NHL players for the lockout. When higher level talent is placed in these smaller hockey markets, it can help ignite interest for the future and be a jumping off point for growth for a franchise and league.
I encourage hockey fans to check out minor league hockey regardless if there is a lockout. It may not be the skill and star power of the NHL but the story lines and characters you will be introduced to will be more than enough to grab your attention. There are still great moments and fans make connections with the players even more. If you are a hockey fan you will not mind seeing any level of hockey and you certainly will not mind paying way below NHL prices.
Chris Hoeler is a graduate student at Manhattanville College majoring in sports management, as well as the Assistant Director of Player Personnel for the Danbury Whalers of the Federal Hockey League. He also writes articles for Turnstyl3, where you can find the ticket to your favorite entertainment.