Thursday, October 04, 2012

NHL heading for another nuclear winter, 80's style

by Bob Herpen
Phanatic Hockey Editor

The NHL regular season schedule was set to kick off one week from today, but that appears less and less likely, as an announcement is imminent that the first two-week block of games will be excised across the board.

While it's useless to recount the many missteps up to now that could have prevented this scenario, it does recall a time when people across the Northern Hemisphere watched and waited expectantly as forces beyond their control sought to alter their lives for the worst.

I'm talking about the latter stages of the Cold War between the US and Soviet Union, in the mid 1980's, when both sides had missiles and nukes pointing at each other from their respective countries as well as from nations friendly to either side.

With the talks in New York over the weekend only served to further the belief that neither the NHL nor the NHLPA really cares to get to serious negotiations so that the season gets underway, categorized by the league's continued posturing and the players' association's refusal to give in to public dressing downs, all hockey fans are about to feel the real chill.

In any case, with all the ICBM's ready to fly at a moment's notice, all of Western Europe was understandably a bit on edge, something which surely fueled culture in the decade of decadence. It gave rise to a specific subset of pop music in England and on the continent -- songs that deal with the pre-apocalyptic tension of a potential nuclear holocaust.

A few of these tunes were popular enough in the USA to gain Top 40 status, and some have flown under the radar, but they all contain wise words that echo forward to an issue of much lesser concern here in North America.

First up, the seminal West German pop band "Alphaville," with their 1984 played-at-every-high-school-dance-in-perpetuity hit, "Forever Young."

Key line(s): "Let's dance in style/let's dance for a while/Heaven can wait we're only watching the skies/hoping for the best but expecting the worst/are you gonna drop the bomb or not?

What it meant then: Might as well have a good time because we have no idea when the Americans and the Russkies are going to light up the sky with fire that will suck the paint off our houses and give our families permanent orange Afros. "The bomb" is obvious -- the nuke that will wipe us all off the map. Germany was essentially "Ground Zero" for Doomsday, split as it was between East and West, as well as Berlin split itself inside Communist East Germany between a Soviet sector and free sector divided between the U.S., United Kingdom and France.

What it means now: "The bomb" is obvious here, too -- the systematic cancellation of games in two-week blocks which is on the horizon, or the full nuclear option of cancelling the entire season like in 2004-05. It's also a call for people to get on with life and enjoy what else you can while you can as those responsible for the lockout fail in their responsibilities to the game.

Second on the list is a hidden gem from former Police front man Sting, who weighed in on the geopolitical situation with 1985's "Russians" from his first solo album.

Key line(s): "Mr. Khrushchev says we will bury you.../Mr. Reagan says we will protect you/I don't subscribe to this point of view/believe me when I say to you/I hope the Russians love their children too.

What it meant then: The Soviet premier, in 1956 at a summit of Western leaders in Poland's embassy at Moscow, basically said that Communism would triumph over Capitalism, not that the USSR would crush the USA in any military action. Contrast that with Ronald Reagan's crusade to defeat Communism in the 80s, where he pledged he would protect Western Europe from Soviet incursions beyond the Eastern Bloc. Sting positions himself humanistically, advocating disbelief of both sides and wishing that the Red and Blue both realize what's at stake: their children's futures.

What it means now: No matter where you pledge your allegiance, Messrs. Bettman, Daly and Fehr will continue to vie for hockey fans' affections and support by a whole host of means -- but primarily through updates shot through with rhetoric after every bargaining session. Nobody should be dumb enough to believe one side over the other, or either side for that matter. Hockey fans are in this together, for ourselves, wishing the NHL and NHLPA comes to realize our future fandom and spending power is at stake.

Finally, the last in our trio, a Number One song from England's Tears For Fears, which dominated radios through the Summer of 1985 and continues to be played across multiple formats 27 years later: "Shout."

Key line(s): They gave you life/and in return you gave them Hell/as cold as ice/I hope we live to tell the tale. Also, the chorus of "shout, shout, let it all out/these are the things I can do without."

What it meant then: The whole second stanza is a master parent/child metaphor. On the surface, it protested the U.S. placing missiles pointed at the Soviet Union on U.K. military lands, but below that calls into mind the pain that children can inflict on loving parents despite their best efforts to provide a stable home. The hook of the song is a clear call for people to speak out on what's troubling them, from the personal to the political without fear. Within the next calendar year, Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev began disarmament talks.

What it means now: It's a message from one side to the other and between both, that neither does exist or can exist without the other, and can't continue with one side trying to destroy the other.
The longer this lockout goes, the more splintered fans' lives will become once they make a decision: to call, write, complain to the NHL or NHLPA? To wait anxiously until the lockout is resolved, to quit being a fan or stop supporting the league and their favorite team either silently or in a blaze of discontent? To do nothing since resistance is futile? The best option is to make your opinion known and your voice heard. If it is loud enough, the powerful will have to deal with the consequences.

The world was fully back from the brink after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, and the United States no longer had an enemy which they could counter with their own propaganda or threaten to blow up good with their warheads.


Meanwhile, the third lockout in 18 years shows only signs of worsening. Toronto and New York might as well be Washington and Moscow, but there is no summit in Reykjavik on the horizon.

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