Do they still play hockey in this country? |

Do they still play hockey in this country?

Chris Freud
Vail, CO Colorado

OK, so the Nets and the Knicks are on TV, to be followed by Bulls-Clippers. Our copy desk now has a serious ACC tint – North Carolina and Maryland – so college basketball is upon us. The college football bowl season is here and the NFL is getting down to crunch time.

So does anyone notice that the NHL has been shooting itself in the foot again?

Of course, the hard-core hockey fans are, but most of the country isn’t. (If the NFL hadn’t resolved its labor issue during the summer of 2011, this country would have stopped in its tracks.)

Aside from the sheer stupidity of both sides for doing this twice within the span of a decade, the major issue is that hockey is quickly becoming irrelevant. Would anyone notice if the NHL magically got its act together and started a truncated season Jan. 1? (Not that it’s going to happen.)

Probably not.

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I’ve been a NHL fan for ages, but it’s clear that its owners and players do not care about their fans (and, perhaps, better-phrased, customers). Why should we care, much less buy tickets, the Center Ice package on the dish or team gear when the league gets its act together this winter/ next year/ sometime before 2020?

My bet is that the fiscal cliff gets solved before this NHL lockout. Kids, that makes the NHL and its players more dysfunctional than Congress.

A swing through some other topics:

• The Broncos have won eight straight and Peyton Manning could run for any political office in this state and carry 95 percent on the vote. Before we book the tickets to New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII, please consider the following factors.

The Broncos haven’t beaten an elite team this year- they’re 0-for-3 against the Texans, Patriots and Falcons. Opportunity No. 4 is this weekend in Baltimore and I’ll take the Ravens.

Short of Houston and/or New England tanking the rest of the season, Denver will be at best a No. 3 seed, which means four wins for the title and likely two road games to get to the Super Bowl.

Can Knowshon Moreno hold down the fort at running back? Yes, he ran well against the Raiders – most backs do. Willis McGahee’s absence doesn’t mean much against the AFC West, but my bet is that the Ravens (and possible playoff opponents) invite Moreno to beat them, while sending the house against Manning.

• Right now, my thought is Packers-Patriots, but this changes from week to week. Yeah, the Steelers are old, but if they get in, do you want to play them? The Ravens do have the makeup of a title team. I keep waiting for the New York Giants to take control. The Falcons?

This is why the NFL is compelling theater.

• Might be heresy as Manning is the Comeback Player of the Year in these parts, but what about Adrian Peterson? He did his ACL on Christmas Eve 2011, less than a year ago and he’s on a pace to rush for more than 2,000 yards? It’s not like Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder is lighting it up. AP is the Minnesota offense.

• Most of the world has conceded the BCS Championship to Alabama. Notre Dame and the Crimson Tide still have to go through the formality of actually playing the game. Stranger things have happened.

• Great to see Northern Illinois bust the BCS. Go Huskies against Florida State in the Orange Bowl. When the six major conferences actually play teams I’ve heard of outside of league play, I’ll take this system seriously.

• Toledo vs. Utah State in the Idaho Famous Potato Bowl Saturday? Really? I hear Boise is lovely this time of year.

• Moving to skiing, it’s a speed weekend for the men in Val Gardena, Italy, and the ladies in Val d’Isere, France. Slovenia’s Tina Maze has a 263-point lead over Lindsey Vonn with downhill Friday and super-G Saturday. (By the by, Maria Hoefl-Riesch is second.) Look for Vonn to gain some ground. Despite her poor health in November, she’s getting her groove.

And I’m calling Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal for the overall globe right now on the men’s side.

• A shoutout to Vail’s Heidi Kloser who has her first mogul event of the season Saturday in Finland. And get well soon to Chris Del Bosco. The ski-cross defending world champion is rehabbing his shoulder after an injury in training.

• As the hot stove heats up in baseball, the Dodgers seem to be keeping warm by burning up money. Six years and $147 million for Zach Greinke and $62 million for Hyun-Jin Ryu, not mention the dough they have in Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Hanley Ramirez and Josh Beckett? (And one has to assume that Los Angeles will be giving Clayton Kershaw a minimum of $150 million soon, and that’s a low guess.)

The thing is, though, that money doesn’t guarantee titles. It’s nice not to be operating as the Pirates, but Yankees have won seven titles in the 35 years since free agency, and only one in the last 13 years.

The Dodgers are looking at $220 million payroll. That’ll look sort of bad after finishing in second place in the National League West next year.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or

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