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THN.com Blog: Hockey's deteriorating culture

Lightning owners Len Barrie and Oren Koules have been butting heads over which direction the team should take. (Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Lightning owners Len Barrie and Oren Koules have been butting heads over which direction the team should take. (Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

A few short-form ponderings on a sticky August morning in Toronto:

• In case you missed it, an upcoming book from a leading Canadian sociologist argues that the presumed death-grip hockey holds on Canada’s teenagers isn’t quite so tight after all.

According to University of Lethbridge professor Reginald Bibby’s book The Emerging Millenials, the percentage of teens that say they closely follow the NHL has dropped from 45 percent in 1992 to 35 percent in 2008.

Shocked? Mortified, even? You shouldn’t be if you’ve read my rants over the years. Bibby identifies the same factors – the change effected by immigrants from countries where hockey isn’t embedded in the citizenry; and the vast and ever-expanding amount of entertainment options, televised or otherwise, now available to consumers – I’ve noted for as long as I’ve been with THN.

To believe the future of sports in Canada will play out as the present has – with hockey on top and all other disposable-income options in its slipstream – is the height of dominant-culture arrogance. Massive and multiple investments in the infrastructure of the game (i.e. building new arenas, making it more affordable and welcoming to different ethnicities) are absolutely paramount in addressing problems that Bibby’s studies show already are taking their toll.

Otherwise, 30 or 40 years down the line, the game’s guardians are going to be wondering where it all went awry – despite some of us shouting out the proper prognosis all along.

• The Tampa Bay Lightning’s ownership situation is at a crossroads that might yet require litigation to be settled. The Florida Panthers may or may not be sold sometime this year. The owners of the Atlanta Thrashers have long been mired in legal quagmires that could continue beyond the end of this decade.

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And somehow the NHL wants us to believe Jim Balsillie doesn’t have what it takes to be an NHL owner?

The longer he fights the league through the courts, the more Balsillie looks to be perfectly suited for this old boys’ club.

• Finally, how appropriate is it that a guy named Kane is in trouble because of a bill?

(Get it? Kane? Eh-bill? Oh, never mind.)

Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear regularly in the off-season, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.


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