In case you weren’t aware the National Hockey League – arguably the highest level hockey league in the world has been subject to an owner’s lockout this entire season. If you are a hockey fan and it seems to you like this is a re-run of a bad movie, there’s good reason to feel that way. The entire 2004-2005 season was wiped out by a player lockout by the owners. Had I been blogging at the time I would have surmised that hockey having the smallest audience of the four North American professional sports was risking its own extinction. And that was before the distractions of smartphones and tablet computers.
Of course the issue is about money. The owners are claiming that their current share of total revenue creates an unsustainable business model for them. The players respectfully disagree. I am not going to offer an opinion on who’s right and who’s wrong. However I will offer that in the process the collateral damage to people that are employed as a result of NHL hockey makes me feel the two sides really don’t care about anything other than themselves. Sports Illustrated had a blog post on that angle. That an arrangement has to be acceptable to both sides is obvious, but the tactics of sports lockouts and strikes is tired and wholly overused.
I am actually a person that likes professional hockey. The game in person is often breathtaking to watch especially if you can get a seat in the lower sections, better yet near the ice itself. Unfortunately my favorite team the New York Islanders has not given fans like me much to cheer about over the past nearly twenty years. Yet I cannot recall one conversation over the past two plus months (the NHL regular season was to have started in early October) with anyone telling me how much they have missed hockey and could not wait for the lockout to end so they could get back to watching games. I’m sure there are a good number of fans who feel that way but I don’t run into them, or, more worrisome, maybe they have found that they don’t miss it as much as they did last time.
If you have been to an NHL game in recent years and paid for the ticket(s) yourself you are well aware that a night at the ol’ hockey arena for two people can easily run $150 when you factor in tickets, parking, food, and any souvenirs you might want to buy. And that’s not for the rink-side seats mind you. To take a family of four to a hockey game (like most professional sports in the U.S. these days) requires a substantial investment. I am flabbergasted that the two sides would treat their shrinking fan base in such a callous fashion.
Perhaps the owner and players are thinking – ‘they came back in 2005, they’ll come back this time too whether it is this season or next’. If that’s their thinking I would remind them of how different the world is in 2012 than it was in 2005. It’s a hand I would not want to play as the risk is too great.
In the meantime fans like me will do other things and become accustomed to the new habits they are being forced to develop. To me that seems akin to holding the gun to your head and spinning the chamber hoping it stops on the empty one when you pull the trigger.
Do you think fans will forgive and forget and the NHL will rise once again from the ashes it has self-created?