After the last NHL season lost due to a lockout of the players by the league, I, like just about every other crazy hockey fan, was so happy just to have it back that I scooped up tickets like nobody’s business. Hell, all of the fans rewarded the league and its players with record crowds (and revenues) for the next several years. This past June, when hockey ended and the Stanley Cup was hoisted, and everyone in the world knew the collective bargaining agreement was coming to an end, what do you think the NHL and NHLPA did about it?
Both the league and its players just sat on their butts like a 4th line goon benched for picking one too many fights. In fact, it was well into the fall before any negotiations worth mentioning took place. Hell, half the season, the All Star Game, and the Winter Classic had to be cancelled before any real talking happened at all – and even then only the threat of billions of dollars in anti-trust lawsuits and the cancellation of an entire season got a deal done. In January. Almost 7 months AFTER both sides should have done something about it.
I know that hockey is big business and there are several hundred elite athletes and 30 ownership groups that invest a lot of time, energy, and money into the fastest team sport on ice. I get it. It’s not simple, and when that many people are involved and that much is at stake, you can’t just snap your fingers and make something happen. I don’t expect that and neither did any other hockey fan. What we did expect is that both sides would to SOMETHING. Instead, both sides did nothing for a painstaking long time, and after that all we got was posturing and mud slinging.
So how will we the fans reward the NHL and NHLPA for their antics? Probably with sellout crowds for the shortened season and record sales in merchandise. That seems to be how these things go. Now the “experts” are saying that this time around things will be different but I’m not so sure. I for one don’t plan on giving the NHL or NHLPA a dime for many years if I can help it and I have a few friends who are of the same opinion. But the problem is that for every one of us there is another ten people with more money than brains and another hundred corporations with deep pockets scooping up the tickets and filling the rinks simply because they can. So, the corporate machine that is professional hockey in North America will continue to spin, albeit with a little less enthusiasm than a year ago. All it will take is an exciting Cup Final and an active off season with respect to trades and momentum will build back up – you just watch.
Mark my words. Bookmark this post and revisit it 18 months from now.
I predict that the NHL will be back into record revenues and crowds before the end of the 2013-2014 season. A few of us will have no part of it, but it’s of little consolation. At least I’ll have a few more dollars in my pocket at the end of the year.
A wise person once said, “As soon as money leaves your hand it stops being yours” and that’s a great quote. The best thing I can think of to do is find a few more ways to ensure that it stays in my hand a bit longer.
After the last lockout I was so frustrated with the Toronto Maple Leafs that I declared myself a “free agent fan” and the Ottawa Senators won that free agent battle and along with it my fan support for as long as I gave it to the Leafs – 31 years. Well, unfortunately once the CBA expired and we lost games in the season that “contract” is now null and void. I’m a “free agent fan” once again, only this time I’m not looking for a team… I’m looking for an entire league.
The early leader is the Ontario Hockey League. There are several teams within an hour’s drive of my house and you can get two tickets for $35 plus free parking. It’s great to take the kids, and we get to see some pretty damn good hockey (the Kitchener Rangers goalie just won a gold medal for the USA in the most recent World Junior Championships).
If you want to see the original “free agent fan” story and letter I wrote to all 30 NHL teams you can click the links below to expand the sections (please ignore the fact that my writing back then was terrible).