Fifty-five days ago the contract between NHL team owners and the NHL Players Association expired without a new agreement in place, and as of right now they still haven't pulled one together. Some people blame greedy owners, some blame greedy players, and some blame both. The one thing that's completely certain is that it's already a month after the season was supposed to start and there's still no hockey happening. With players heading to European leagues to make up for lost income, and the ratings-intensive annual Winter Classic event canceled, many fans are wondering if there's going to be a season at all. Rumor has it that the two sides might have things worked out by the end of the day today, and that there might be some kind of abbreviated season after all, but as of right now things are still pretty much fucked.
To get some perspective on the situation I had a chat with Spag, aka Drunk Bastard, aka the front man for Two Man Advantage, which since 1997 has been New York City's premier hockey-themed punk band. We spoke outside of Brooklyn's Trash Bar about a half hour before Spag and company crushed about a million beers and generally tore shit up hockey-style. They're on tour as we speak, and if you have any NHL-related angst to work out I highly recommend you hit up one of their shows.
VICE: So you're an Islanders fan?
Drunk Bastard: I'm an Islander fan.
From all the way back?
Ever since I was a really young child, yeah. I think I probably started following the Islanders in 1978.
So you kinda got a double hit this year because the Islanders announced that they're moving to Brooklyn in 2015, and also there's this lockout.
The lockout, you know what? It's another step back for the NHL. It's fucked up. It's stupid. The NHL, after the lockout they had a few years ago, really worked hard to promote itself and make it what it was as of last year. I think it really got the fans excited again, I think it got new fans, revenue was up. I think the Winter Classic is an amazing fucking marketing scam. And now all of a sudden we're back to where we were years ago and all the shit they worked so hard to do is gone. I watch the news and people don't even care that there's no hockey. Me as a fan, I'm frustrated at the owners, and the NHL can't work it out. It's all about money. It's all about gluttony. It's all about greed. It's just silly. You know what they did? The really talented guys? "Fuck it, I'll go play in Russia." They don't even care.
It's bullshit because you want to be on their side. NHL players, compared to other sports, they don't make that much money unless they're superstars.
The league minimum's like, what, $600,000?
And these guys are getting fucked up.
These guys are some of the best athletes in the world. It's unreal. To be able to skate like that and keep your head up and not get hit in the ass… it's unreal. It's not an easy sport to play. These guys deserve to get paid, but you know what? They need to sit back and say, why do we play this sport? Because we love this sport. And you know why we love this sport? Because it's the greatest sport out there. They have to realize that the reason why it's so great is the fans love it so much. Fans that love hockey are so passionate about it, more than I think any other sport. I think hockey is the punk rock sport. You don't get paid a lot, you get beat up, no one fucking cares about it, the media don't care about it. I'm not saying it's the players' fault, I'm not saying it's the owners' fault, I'm just saying that both of them need to say, hold on a second we're fucking up the people that work at the stadiums, all the concession stand guys, the guys who sell tickets, all the guys who need their $30,000 a year to support their families. I'm torn between it, I don't know who to blame, whether it's the players or the owners. I try not to get involved in the politics of it, I'm just a fan that loves the game. If you love to play hockey and if you run a league, why would you not want the league to play? Why?
How are you guys coping? Are you watching old videos? Are you playing NHL on Xbox?
No, I don't play video games, I'm not going to watch… well the other night, I'm going to be honest with you, I started flipping through some old records of mine and I found a record by Chase Bank of the 1979-1980 New York Islanders Road to the Stanley Cup record. It was a record that Chase Bank gave out that was a play by play of the New York Islanders' '79-'80 playoff run, with Ed Westfall and all these other broadcasters talking about the game. It's the most amazing record. It just brought tears to my eyes. I remember my wife walking in and going, "I feel so bad for you." I said, "Why?" She said, "You're sitting in a dark room listening to a hockey game from 1980." And I said, "There's no hockey on. What am I going to do?"