Back in 1992, hockey superstar Mario Lemieux gave the NHL a label that has held up nicely for two decades: Garage League.
Lemieux made that harsh assessment while complaining about the league’s hapless officiating. But Garage League has become a handy catch-all phrase to cover all aspects of NHL failure.
Some things have changed over time. Lemieux, for instance, moved from the ice to the owner’s suite. The officiating got better. The league cut ties with ESPN and moved most of its national telecast to a bull-riding channel.
But hockey’s predicament remains the same. It remains a fringe sport in the United States. Commissioner Gary Bettman orchestrated still another player lockout that will relegate hockey to afterthought status for most fans.