Dear Hockey Fan,
I get it.
You are frustrated at the billionaires fighting with millionaires over the money you spend to watch the sport you love. You feel caught in the middle and want nothing more than to lock Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr in a room and not let them out until a deal is reached. Depending on your opinion, you place the blame for the impasse on the owners, or the players, or most likely you feel there is enough blame to go around to both sides.
You are hurt. This Thursday was supposed to be the opening night for the Ottawa Senators as they were scheduled to pay a visit to the Montreal Canadiens. This will not happen and as it sits today, the earliest you will see hockey is October 25th, and the way it looks right now that is a pipe dream and it will probably be much longer than that, if we get a season at all.
You are angry, and want to lash out, and if Bettman and/or Fehr was in front of you you would give them a piece of your mind, or maybe worse, want to inflict some physical damage to show them how much you are hurting and how angry you are that they have taken away your outlet and enjoyment.
You are also gullible. Some of you actually believe that if the owners side gets the cost certainty they desire, that ticket prices will go down. If you believe that, you are dead wrong. Like it or not, hockey is a business. The Owners are in the game for many reasons – ego, community pride, tax writeoff, love of the game and competitive drive are among them. Money is also a factor. They are running a business, and part of any business plan is to maximize revenue and profit. Do you really think that Toronto is going to lower ticket prices just to be nice? They don’t need to, because they can basically charge whatever they want and they will still sell out. Like it or not, it is a market based economy and they teams will charge what they feel they can in their market. You have a choice whether or not you want to pay it.
You are also hypocritical. Out of one side of your mouth you chastise the players for being greedy and you say you would play the game for free. Sure you would. But would anyone come to watch you play, even for free? There is a reason that the total attendance for thousands of beer league games around the city is limited to the odd spouses and kids. These NHL players have a specific skill set that you don’t have and they have progressed to the point that that are among the top 700 people in the world who do what they do. You wonder why they won’t play for the love of the game. Yet for those of you reading in Ottawa there is a major junior team playing in the same building whose players aren’t getting paid millions of dollars, and only 4 or 5 thousand of you on average even bother to check it out on any given day. There is probably other options wherever you are reading this from. The Ottawa 67’s provide great entertainment at a very affordable price but the are thousands of empty seats every game. Is it because they aren’t at the elite level? If that is the case, then your ego tells you that if it’s not the best, it’s not worth it. Yet you chaise the players for having an ego and wanting to get paid what hey feel they are worth?
If hockey fans were truly that, then there would be 15,000 on average at 67’s games, especially while the NHL lockout is on. There would be bigger crowds at the multitude of junior A and Junior B games around the city if all people cared about was seeing people play for the love of the game.
The bottom line is, hockey is a sport, it is an entertainment, it is a business. You, the fan are the consumer, and their task is to get as much out of you as you are willing to spend. The players want their fair share of that revenue and feel they deserve it because you don’t pay to see Eugene Melnyk give a speech, you pay to see elite hockey players compete.
I am not going to suggest that you boycott the NHL when it finally returns. I am not going to be someone who blames the fans for being part of the problem. I am going to be the one who suggests that if you want to see hockey so desperately, there are a ton of other options out there, and if you don’t choose to exercise those options, then you have no right to complain about the money issues that the two sides are currently fighting over. If you are one of those who will only pay for NHL hockey, then you are providing the very justification for the NHL / NHLPA fight, so stop complaining and wait for it to end.