Hockey fans are a resilient bunch
Published: Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 19, 2012 00:09
As the clock struck midnight on Sept. 15, the National Hockey League officially entered the league’s third lockout in the sport’s history. The first question I asked myself earlier in the week is how a company that has done so well for itself over the past few years could shut its doors and leave their loyal dedicated fan base out in the cold.
Like anything else these days, it’s all about the money.
The owners wanted a bigger share of the pie. Under the recently expired collective bargaining agreement, players received 57% of hockey related revenue. Owners want to reduce that number to 47% after already slapping a salary cap on players during the last NHL lockout, which canceled the entire 2004-05 season.
Other major points of contention are the length of player contracts. The NHL wants contracts to be limited to no more than five years, while the players association has not made an offer, they have publically stated that five years is much too short. This comes as no surprise seeing as one of the league’s biggest stars, Sydney Crosby signed a 12 year deal in June and Boston Bruins forward Tyler Seguin inked a six year contract extension just last week.
What does all this mean to the average fan? Not a whole heck of a lot. All the average fan can do now is wait, wait for the players and owners to come together and wait for an absolution that may be months away. The NHL released a message to the fans on Sunday that said, “The National Hockey League has been, and remains, committed to negotiating around the clock to reach a new CBA.”
Really? If the NHL was so committed to drawing up a new CBA, then why were there no talks scheduled days prior to the expiration of the old CBA?
Hockey fans deserve better than this. We spend our hard earned dollars year in and year out for the love of the game, a game that brings so much joy to our lives and unties us like no other sport can. The NHL may lockout players and fans, but they can’t lockout hockey from our lives.
In just a few weeks, college hockey will be starting across America. At UConn, there is a lot more interest around the men’s hockey team after the announcement that UConn will start Hockey East play in 2014. The American Hockey League, which is the minor league system for the NHL, will not be affected. In fact the AHL will have an increase in talent and quality of games as NHL teams have already sent down players to compete.
Hockey fans are different from basketball, football or baseball fans. In a solid hockey market like Boston, New York or Toronto, we stand by our teams even when they have a losing season. For example, look at the Toronto Maple Leafs. Every night the Leafs take the ice, the Air Canada Center is filled to capacity even though the team has not made the playoffs since 2004. We don’t miss the opening kickoff or in hockey’s case the opening puck drop. Hockey fans don’t need flashy introductions to get excited for the game as their team takes the ice.
The same can be said about the players as well; they are different than any other professional athlete today. I once heard a story about an AHL team whose bus broke down three miles from the rink they were supposed to play in that night. Each player grabbed their bag and walked through a blizzard to get to rink. Can you picture the Boston Red Sox doing that for their fans?
So as the NHL lockout enters day four, what is a hockey fan to do? Well, you can read stories about how the NHL is working “tirelessly” to end the lockout. Or you can do what I am doing, following updates from the CT Whalers and Providence Bruins and counting down the days until UConn hockey drops the puck on another season.
Eventually this lockout will come to an end. The teams will lace up their skates and the arenas will be filled with some of the most loyal fans on the planet. Until that day comes, though, you can find us at our local rinks and frozen ponds, for the passion of the sport can never be halted over a few dollars and cents.