If the NHL Lockout Ends, Why Would Fans Ever Come Back?

By Michael Collins
Image – blog.tickpick.com


NHL Owners and Players–the two sides mired in yet another pointless argument over who gets a bigger slice of a pie that can feed more than everyone–make money. Check that – they make a lot of money.

They make a lot of money because of the fans. They make money because fans watch games on TV and bring in advertising dollars. They make money because fans buy tickets for games, and buy food and drinks and souvenirs at the games. They make money because fans buy the jerseys and licensed merchandise in support of the teams they show the undying allegiance to.

Every dollar NHL owners and players make originates from the fans.

So why then, would fans ever even think of going back to support this enterprise that has shown them time and time again that fans don’t matter?

1992 – NHL players went on strike for 10 days in April, in what was the first work stoppage in NHL  history, but a quick settlement allowed all canceled games to be rescheduled.

1994 – A three-month lockout that went from Oct. 1 to Jan. 11 delayed the start of the NHL’s 1994-95 regular season, which ended up being reduced to 48 games from 84.

2004 – A fight over salary structure led to a 310-day lockout, canceling the entire 2004-05 season in what was the longest work stoppage in sports history. It was also the first time since 1919 that the Stanley Cup championship trophy was not awarded.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman delivers more sad lockout news to the fans. Image:Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

And then there is this year. Owners and players are millions of dollars apart on how to split $3.3 BILLION in revenue. Once again, the owners decided to lock out players. After months of meetings and posturing, the two sides appear to be no closer together than they were at the start of the lockout.

(Interesting sidebar – Gary Bettman has been NHL commissioner during all three lockouts, the only commissioner to actually survive that many work stoppages and remain in office in any professional sports league, assuming this lockout ends and he survives.)

Maybe it’s just me, but if my spouse keeps cheating on me, at some point I’m going to stop being the doormat and just move on.

And that’s what hockey fans need to do right now…just move on. Watch college hockey, or semi-pro hockey, or even rec league hockey if necessary. Heck, even Olympic hockey gets played more often than the NHL at this point.

But fans need to stop contributing to this massive pool of money that the two sides seem so unable to share equitably.

If you hadn’t noticed, none of them care. The owners…the commissioner…the players…none of them. Fans are merely a means to an end for them.

Perhaps it’s time to remove the means.

I understand it sounds drastic and tough to imagine. I’m a hockey fan living in Atlanta. I’ve been left standing on cracked ice more than a few times, and had to make my peace with the fact that fans don’t matter years ago. I get most of my hockey-jones satisfied by watching college hockey, and I think I’m actually seeing a better product.

The 2012 NHL season may or may not ever start. The way these negotiations are going, this might even spill over into the 2013 season.  Only one thing will send the message that this type of indifference to the fans that have given them the cash to fight about is unacceptable.

Let them return to empty seats.


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