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Friday Rockpile: NHL Lockout Draws Disturbing Parallel to 2012 Rockies

CHICAGO - MAY 28: National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks at a press conference at the United Center on May 28, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO - MAY 28: National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks at a press conference at the United Center on May 28, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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For those of you who didn't realize it, I'm a Hockey fan. Well, I'm an Avalanche fan. I'll openly admit that the 2001 Stanley Cup really cemented my fanhood, but for the previous couple of years, I watched in misery as stupid Eddie Belfour backstopped the Dallas Stars to two consecutive Western Conference Finals over the Avalanche.

Obviously, the glory days of the Avalanche are in the past. Joe Sakic, Patrick Roy, Peter Forsberg, and Adam Foote have all hung up their skates, and now Milan Hejduk is pondering his own retirement.

But in their place, we've seen some other very intriguing and exciting talent rise through the Avalanche's system and/or trades, in Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, Semyon Varlamov, and Eric Johnson. Instead of dusting off my Avalanche jersey and preparing for a long, cold, awesome winter of Avs hockey, I instead get to read about how the NHL has locked out its own players for the second time in only 8 years.

I know you didn't come here to read about hockey this morning, so I'll try and get to the point. The NHL has experienced a lot of growth over the past 7 years since the lockout, and yet the owners are shutting out the players. There is still another year left on the current CBA, so why would the league push for a work stoppage? Simple answer: they hold all of the cards.

See, the league knows a little something about their fanbase, and that's the fact that hockey fans are completely insane. If you've ever known hockey fans, you know what I'm talking about. It's not the "oh wow did you see those guys in the Oakland Raiders endzone?" kind of crazy. Hockey isn't just the sport they love, it's more than that. They soak up every drop of the niche that hockey is. They play it, they get jobs at rinks, they pretend to have grown up in Minnesota even though they're from Wichita.

The NHL knows this as well. What's worse is that the NHL knows that no matter what happens, they'll be back. Hockey will survive, and the league will get its way. Again.

This is where we can draw the line to the Rockies' situation. The Rockies Will Reach 60 Million Paid Fans On Friday, the fastest franchise in MLB history to accomplish the feat. The Rockies have pulled fewer than 2M fans only once in their history, 2005, and that figure was at 1.9M fans for the season. They've never averaged fewer than 23,000 fans a game. In fact, last season nearly hit 3M fans for the first time since 2001, and the 2011 Rockies finished 16 games under .500 while pulling 36,000 a game. That blows a LOT of teams' attendance marks clear out of the water. A team with a franchise .473 winning percentage is pulling those kinds of fans.

(Continued after the jump)

Off Topic

The fact is that Denver loves Coors Field. They may not actually love the Rockies, but they love Coors Field. Sports fans in Denver are still going to come to Coors Field, do the wave, buy beer, buy a Rockie Dog, watch the Rockies play baseball, and sell out every Sunday day game possible.

Ownership knows this.

This is about where the parallel drops off for me. The NHL situation screams nothing but ownership greed and exploiting fan loyalty to what seems to be nothing more than classic "Sports Team Ownership Greed". I simply don't see the Rockies ownership in that light, of being Scrooge McDucks with 100-story vaults filled with gold coins that they go swimming in while the team is on the road.

The fact remains that a Rockies game is still one of the more affordable and best ways to spend those summer evenings. Ticket prices haven't taken dramatic rises. Beer is still only like $7. Most food is still only like $5-$7. You can realistically go to a game, have the entire sports experience (ticket, beer, some sort of food stuff, parking), and walk out having dropped less than $40 on the evening. If we were looking at the stereotypical "greedy ownership" archetype, there's no way that the team wouldn't be trying to further exploit the Denver Sports Fan.

So once again, we're back to the situation that we've been talking about all season. Dan O'Dowd has still done a fine job with the farm system, and I won't back down from that. They've done a lot of good things with the team over the past several years, despite the misery we've witnessed this 2012 season. It's still too early to be able to make a real case for or against Bill Geivett aside from a "guilty by association" indictment.

Despite the case FOR the guys on top, things have to change, in one of the following ways:

1. Dick Monfort needs to sell the team. I remember shaking Charlie Monfort's hand at either a 2006 or 2008 Spring Training game, and I also remember shaking Dick's hand at the season finale last year. I don't hate the ownership, they seem like relatively normal dudes. But they really shouldn't own the Rockies, despite wanting to hand it down to their grandchildren.

Side note, but when exactly did Dick become the frontman on this stuff? It used to be Charlie running the show and Dick dotting the "i's" and crossing the "t's", then all of a sudden we have Dick Monfort "taking responsibility" for the season.

When I say the Monforts need to sell the team, I don't mean "BRING IN MARK CUBAN SO WE CAN TRADE FOR CLIFF LEE". Yeah, it'd be fun to have an ownership group with infinity money, but come on, we're not the market for that kind of a person. Find an ownership group that knows how to run a Major Sports Franchise. I mean, for God's sake, we saw the attendance numbers above. Find a way to win. Don't accept less.

2. Fire roughly everyone culpable for 2012. That includes Dan O'Dowd, Gievett, Jim Tracy, and you can throw darts at most of this page and fire a few of them, too (except Rolando Fernandez, I swear, I will burn something down if that man leaves the organization). There's a point to patience, there's a point to allowing management to learn, but dear Lord, we're back to square 1 AGAIN after what, 12 years? Enough.

This part could involve getting someone outside of the organization to help evaluate the changes that should be made. Fresh eyes, and all, else it could be a situation where firings happen for the sake of firings.

3. Keep doing crazy crap like the paired rotation, but actually stick with it this time. Maybe the rotation model itself wasn't the best idea, depending on who you talk to, but at least they tried something. Find another grand experiment and just do it. Make it happen. The Rockies are already a laughingstock and about to finish with their worst ever record, so please remind me exactly what there is to lose going forward.

I don't think any of those 3 things are going to happen, sadly. But something does need to happen. Some teams are already making these moves. The Marlins are a bit insane like that, but there's something to be said for teams that won't accept anything less than excellence.

We can't have guys operating scared in a huge money industry like MLB. It's like when you played high school football: go 100%. Hit hard, because when you try to let up, you'll just end up hurting yourself. Not having a clear plan going into 2012 hurt the team, and it just gave way to a bunch of weird half-baked ideas that could have been really interesting to watch had they actually properly prepared for them. Factor in the team's attempt to keep their PR above reproach, and we're just wondering what happened to all the promise and hope that we had back in February.

Instead, we see a team dipping its toes into the water in terms of organizational change and then scurrying back to their beach towels when they see that it's cold.

Thanks for sticking around this long, if you're still reading. It's tough to write a piece like this when you know that no matter what you write, it's going to have zero impact on the way things are happening. I love this team. We all love this team, that's why we're here on Purple Row. But this year more than ever, when fans of other teams just dismiss anything Colorado with a "lol rockies", I really can't argue with them any more. I'm tired of that.

Come on, Rockies. Give us something to be legitimately proud of, and don't just breathe easy because the Summer Denver Sports Fans keep walking in the gate.