Friday, January 18, 2013

Puck Drop

As many had predicted, the "dance" involving the NHL & NHLPA is over. The music has finally stopped and play will begin tomorrow (01/19/13) for some NHL teams with every team having played its first game by Sunday. OK all you fans out there, now is the time to know whether all the vitriol you expelled during the 100+ days of the NHL lockout was just words or sincere feelings.

The fans have been bombarded this week with television ads, radio interviews etc. with both team owners and players literally pleading for their fans to return. Players want you to feel part of their challenge to perform well and make the playoffs and possibly "bring home the Cup". Owners have set up discount food and reduced merchandise costs to lure the team's fans back into the building.

I hope you see all this for what it is. Now that their sandbox scrap is in the rear view mirror, they realize what most knew all along. The money that was at the heart of the issue was never theirs and any future revenue comes from one source, the fans.Where was this contrition "during" the lockout? It's like being remorsful for a wrongdoing after you've been exposed. The apology is only because you got caught, not for what you did.

I have a friend here on Vancouver Island who has been a Vancouver Canuck season ticket holder from "day one". Yes, I said "day one" of the team's existence (1970). That means a ferry ride and an overnight stay on the mainland including the cost of the ticket each time he witnesses a Canuck game. This man is a "fan" of the highest order (a little misguided perhaps as the team to cheer for is in Calgary but that's for another time). During the lockout I asked for his take on the situation. What follows are his words with his permission to post. Hockey fans take heed!!!

I am totally disgusted with the NHL Owners and Commissioner Gary Bettman and his Deputy Bill Daly for allowing the renegotiation of the CBA to degenerate into a needless 113-day lockout from Sept. 15th during which any prospects of reasonable and fair settlement were compromised by bad faith, intentional delays and the worst examples of constructive collective bargaining practices. Although multi-millions of dollars have been lost by owners and players, the big losers are the fans who create the bulk of hockey revenue and the suppliers of goods and services which support the business of hockey. Many fans and supporting businesses will not be continuing their considerable support in the future.

The lengthy negotiations of the new CBA have been reported endlessly. As Sidney Crosby stated recently, there was no legitimate reason for the CBA not to have been agreed upon in early December with the prospects of a nearly full season. Instead, contrary to the opinion stated by Don Cherry that a shortened 48-game schedule "will be terrific", most knowledgable hockey people are skeptical - a compressed schedule will lead to tired players prone to injury, boring games limited to teams in our own Conference, and questionable results in the final standings.

Unfortunately, in most NHL cities the owners will not get the message and improve their contractual dealings with their players, nor give greater recognition to their fans and supporting businesses who bear the freight. Like most other season ticket holders, I will somewhat reluctantly continue to attend games and the Canucks will extend their consecutive sellout record from the existing 400 plus games. One of the unfortunate results I have found over my 40-years as a Canucks season ticket holder is that the fan base has changed from predominantly one of individuals and families to corporate ownership, no doubt due to the high cost of tickets - with this protracted lockout and resulting CBA, there is little prospect of more affordable live hockey at the NHL level.

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