Rejoice! The NHL is back. This column often strikes a sarcastic pose so we should clarify, we do think that is actually a good thing. A great thing, in fact. The return of the NHL is terrific sporting news. Word on the street is that once the suits finish crossing and dotting their proverbials, we should have hockey on or between the 15th and 19th of January. As far as the NHL is concerned at that point the NHL fans, casual and loyal both, should dutifully put on their jerseys and make way in orderly fashion to their closest Ice Hockey rink to pay their hard earned money to watch the NHL product.
The NHL thinks it can basically slap whatever it wants on your plate, and you are going to gobble it up without any reservations. And you will be thankful. Although those within the league, extending from front office execs to heavy set ‘enforcers’ on the ice, are all striking the right conciliatory tones, you can bet that once the season starts and once their precious stadiums fill up, we will be back to square one.
Here’s the thing. This particular lockout is not only one of the greediest, it is also one of the stupidest in recent memory. Coming into this season, the NHL was in particularly super health. A short while before the lockout, league executives made a presentation to both owners and players demonstrating how the league hoped to add over $300 million in revenues over the next 2-3 years. The initiatives disclosed were many and varied, and included both the States and Europe also. The path forward looked extremely rosy and all the owners and players had to do was basically not sabotage it all.
Naturally, the league kick started the self-destruct process by locking the players out. What happened next can be judged by whichever side you fall on, owners or players, however what is clear is that both sides have made mistakes. This leaves us with the fans.
The fans are effectively almost powerless in this whole process. The NHL probably thinks the fans are exactly that, powerless. The fans watched patiently as the drama unfolded, and then watched in despair as both sides shovelled fuel apparently gleefully onto the flames. Now, as the fire subsides, the fans are expected to open up their wallets and march back into the stadiums. The fans are basically expected to act as if everything is OK.
Well, it doesn’t take me to tell you, everything is decidedly not OK! This is the third time the NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has locked the players out under his reign. The third time! That is simply ridiculous.
The fans should not accept this and the NHL might think they are powerless to do anything about it, however that is far from the truth. The fans of the NHL could deliver a nuclear bomb level statement with one simple act.
Don’t go to the first game your team plays at home.
Watch it on TV or the Internet, sure, you can’t expect loyal fans to miss a game, that’s asking too much. However, don’t go to the stadium. Let the league experience what it feels to be left helpless, as the fans have three times now because of the flamboyant, incendiary decisions Bettman has made. Spend your money on your wife and kids, or yourself for that matter! Make a statement, make yourself heard, stay away from the home opener for your team.
Can you imagine the massive, sticky, messy egg this would metaphorically leave on the NHL’s face? Imagine for a second the wonderful message this would send, the fans will not accept being screwed around with any further.
A statement such as this would force the League, the owners and the players too, to think long and hard before screwing with the fans like this again. A simple act, easily organised and yet so powerful in its implications, would deliver a punishing, powerful warning blow to the greedy bellies of those who would mess so easily with the fans.
The NHL is back and that is a great thing.
Before you throw yourself into it fully, send the league a statement, that you won’t accept this kind of behaviour again. The NHL doesn’t really want you to, but you the fan has a voice, a powerful one.
Let it be heard.
Stay away from game one.