As a fan of the NHL, it’s difficult to know what to say today. If you happened to miss it, the NHLPA submitted a proposal yesterday which was quickly rejected by the league. What followed was a series of bizarre press conferences from Don Fehr & Gary Bettman. Fehr stated the sides were close to an agreement. Bettman said this wasn’t true. A number of the items on the negotiating table, like the “make whole” provision had been pulled back by the league. No future meetings have been scheduled. The drop dead date for this season is looming out there in January. Where exactly do we go from here?
Both owners and players continue to reference “the fans”. “The fans” deserve better from a new agreement and that they hope to play in front of us soon. What neither side seems to be taking into account is how they are taking “the fans” for granted and how much we are being insulted. I bought in to the Lightning as a season ticket member after a 2008-09 season which saw them finish 29th out of 30 teams. I have left my money for this season’s tickets with the team. I did both of these things for a reason. I believed in my team and I believed that the game would come back this year. It had to. There was just too much at stake this time, right?
After the roller coaster/ reality show of the negotiations, I have stopped believing. It’s an act of self preservation at this poing. They don’t care about us, so I’ll turn my attention elsewhere. For example, pitchers and catchers are reporting in a few short months.
The NHL constantly covets the “Casual fan”. The hardcore ones should be at the forefront of their minds the longer this work stoppage goes on. Many are starting to wonder if it’s worth it to go back. Why put yourself through the ringer for a sport that will go through this again in 5, 8, 0r 10 years. Is it worth it? The answer is quickly becoming a resounding no.
Beyond losing the support of current fans, the future is at stake as well. Children who enjoyed going to games will find something else to occupy their time. They’ll find new heroes. Memorable moments that could inspire future generations of fans and players won’t happen. The far reaching damage to the NHL is a very real danger. There may be a whole lot less revenue to fight over the next time around as there will be fewer fans to care.
I know my words make no difference. I sit in the nosebleeds in the cheapest ticket package at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. I’m a fan of a small market Sun Belt team. What I do have is an insane amount of passion for my team and the sport of hockey. The last week has left me angry, sad, and worst of all… hopeless when it comes to the NHL. We recognize that professional sports is a business, but neither side seems willing to get back to business.
It’s difficult to know what to say when something you love so much clearly doesn’t give a crap about you. I may have finally figured out the right words:
Shame on you, NHL. Shame on you, NHLPA. No one is bigger than the game, even you. Remember that.