Lockout Casualty Stories: The Production Line

Mourning The Great Red Wings Blog And Savior Of Curly Fries

The inanity of the 2012 NHL player lockout has left our little corner of the world rather empty lately. We tried whistling past the graveyard for the first few months, thinking this would all be tied up quickly. Failing that, we tried watching the NHL channel replays – for example, the Caps home defeat of the Penguins 3-2 in-game one of the Eastern Conference semis in 2009. Great game, sure; but how do you pretend you don’t know what’s about to happen?

You know exactly who we mean

You know exactly who we mean

We’ve tried college hockey, but the Spartans stink and we can’t even root for the “Fighting Sioux!” anymore. There’s those Bears in Hershey (o hai Braden, hai Matty!) but even high quality AHL play moves slower on the ice, and with less animal power, than the worst NHL team.  Not only were the Caps far from the worst, we were just getting giddy over the new Oates era.

The lockout has pretty much killed a lot of that. Less enthusiasm. Less interest in overseas play and Caps toques. Horn guy is silent and Slapshot (we fear) spends his days watching Judge Judy from the couch. Even Santa couldn’t wrap this package and put it under the tree.

And now, our world is a little bit emptier with news that the lockout has killed one of hockeydom’s most Awesome Sawsome blogs (short of our masters at RMNB) of all time: The Production Line.

TPL Logo“It is with great sadness, a heavy heart, a healthy helping of anger, and a touch of bitterness that I’m here to announce that The Production Line is closing its doors,” writes Michael Petrella, co-editor and co-creator of the genius all-things-Red-Wings blog. “While there’s no guarantee it’ll be permanent, it’s what we need to do at this time – step away and distance ourselves from the mess that’s become of our league,” he writes.

The closing down of a production line isn’t exactly headlines in Detroit. But TPL was no ordinary line. Named for the Wing’s dominating line of Ted Lindsay, Gordie Howe and Sid Abel in the days of old-time hockey, TPL brought all the bone-crunching checks and bouncing shoot-ins from their namesakes as they covered the Winged Wheels with insight, sass, sexytexting, and spit-up humor.

Think about it. These were the boys who single-handedly saved the Curly Fry as the snack of choice for a Wing hat trick. The bros who handed out “Loss Candy” to fans, who introduced “The Shirtuzzi” to the league, and raised tens of thousands of dollars for good causes, just ’cause. From them we’re freely lifted “the 5 x 5″, the podcast (well, once we have hockey to talk about,) the chirps and all the things that make us laugh and cheer about our teams.

Disch Tatt

Needz moar tattz, Disch

Sadly, there’s just not a lot to laugh or cheer about at TPL this time around.

“I have loved you strong and longtime…and I have loved you without hesitation. It always felt right,” writes TPLer Rob “The Dish” Discher. “But now I’ve fucking had it:”

“This lockout is the most ridiculous heap of bullshit I’ve ever seen in our game, and the longer it drags out, the easier it gets to deal with the fact that YOU…as a hopeless triumvirate of teams, league officials and players…essentially broke up with ME. I’m looking around. I’m realizing that those summer activities that occupied my time, the ones that inevitably got replaced with hockey in the fall, they’re just evolving. They’re turning into more movies, more football, more other random-ass sports that I’m enjoying these days.”

Sure, 2013 may bring a pleasant surprise or two. We could avoid falling off the fiscal cliff. But if it feels like NHL hockey has already careened over the cliff in flames and now lays crumpled in a heap by the shore, you’re not alone. We asked Disch for some thoughts on what may happen now:

1: Was this something you all agreed to?  “Yep. We put it up to a vote and, after a few weeks of wrangling with the issue, decided it was time to call it off for the season…maybe for good. Hollis, Petrella and I have always worked well together and this was another case where we came to the same conclusion independently, then met and agreed to it as a group.”

2. Give us a sense about the debate you four had. “The central debate was if it was worth keeping TPL going when (1) there was no hockey to write about and (2) we were all so pissed at the league. TPL is more of a “feel” project than an analytical one…though Petrella has always maintained some fantastic stats. We were all at a place where we couldn’t get that fire going again for the players, team or league. Like a lot of other hockey fans, we’ve lived through this bullshit lockout scenario before, and this one genuinely left us feeling alienated.”

3: How do you see this lockout ending, and how do you think Detroit fans will respond? “I would be shocked if we had a season, and in all honesty, I don’t think that’s even a good idea at this point. I’ve actually stopped paying attention to the back/forth between the union and league…just too frustrating to keep up with…so it’s entirely possible at this point that they’ve reconciled or killed the season already. Excuse any out-of-date’ness.” [Ed: They haven't, yet, and they haven't, yet.]

“The league needs to do some soul-searching, look at how they interact with fans, and come back next year with an approach that starts to heal the massive wounds they’ve created this year. A few months “in the wilderness” is appropriate right now…probably necessary. Detroit fans will come back in bits and pieces. Some will return to the game, to the Joe, with the same fervor as before. A lot won’t.”

“As a fanbase, we love this team so much and a lot of fans, like the guys at TPL, grew up with the Wings as a central part of our lives. That said, there are things other leagues/professional sports do to ingratiate themselves to fans…to open up the clubhouse and the team management…to bring fans into the experience at a more intimate level. Other teams are outworking the Wings lately as well. The Caps are one of the better organizations out there at community management. I’m still amazed when I come back to DC in the winter and see all the foot traffic around Verizon Center on game nights. The Wings will have to get more guerrilla…follow some of the moves teams in “non-hockey markets” (you know who you are)…to get the fans back on board.”

4: If you all had the chance to speak before Fehr and Bettman, what would say that you feel is critical for them to hear?

“Assuming you’re looking for a more thorough response than “bitch slap both of them”….

“I’d counsel them to start working with the league and player’s union on replacements for each of them. There has been a colossal failure at the top of both organizations to get this done and while I don’t think it’s entirely their fault, they’re entitled to a hefty share of the blame. If their only job was to be a high-level administrator, even then they’d have failed in spades, but in my mind, their job goes beyond that. They’re supposed to LEAD. They’re supposed to spearhead the reconciliation process that has yet to happen because they haven’t navigated this mess properly. They’re supposed to have a vision of what the league COULD be and drive everyone towards it. They seem…to me…to be doing nothing but holding the party line and shifting blame. That’s not good enough, and the irony of a league and union with no discernible leadership in a time like this…when we all know of so many incredible leaders who have graced the ice over the previous decades…is both painful and pathetic.”

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2 Responses to Lockout Casualty Stories: The Production Line

  1. As the Red Wings contributor I would be remiss not to note the passing of this excellent blog. Before I contributed to PB, TPL was a must read for me and once I became a contributor it was awesome to get the occasional shout out from TPL–either on the site or via Twitter. It’s sad that the lockout has cost us this blog. Here’s hoping the same fate doesn’t come to Winging it in Motown.

    Meanwhile, the NHL and NHLPA need to get serious about getting back on the ice. This isn’t just about them…it’s about the fans and it’s about all the ancillary things that exist. They’re hurting a lot of people in many ways. If they want us to be fans, they need to give us something to be fans of. Taking an extended break doesn’t cut it for us or for the related industries that depend on them.

  2. Pingback: Spectors Hockey | NHL Lockout Blog Beat – December 28, 2012.

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