An Open Letter To The Hockey Fan….Part 1

From our series…an open letter…..

Part 1: The start of the lockout.

Part 2: Reality Bites?

Fan picture
The fans have been alienated, here is a letter writing series just for you. (Ross Bonander / THW)


Dear Hockey Fan:

I am writing this to you in the hopes that you are still hanging in there. Yes, the NHL and NHLPA may start talking meaningfully soon but it looks like at least part of the NHL season is pretty much gone. It is a tough and bitter pill to swallow that a significant part of the 2012-2013 season could be wiped out or the whole enchilada. This is one that hurts. Everyone feels it right to the core.

By now, you have heard all the excuses and reasons. Some are just plain sick and tired of what is going on. Remember when TSN’s Bob MacKenzie said he could not believe this was happening again? Here we are, right back in the middle of a steaming pile of poo as the other major sports laugh in our faces. Even the NFL has their referees back. This of course has already sparked NHL fan outrage to a level probably not seen since the end of the 2004-05 season was announced. Thanks to social media these days, that is the reality. Everything is amplified.

If you do not think so, just look at the reaction around Twitter. The message is simple.

From John Shannon of Sportsnet:

NFL Lockout of its Officials is now over…Gary….Don…You are now on the Clock! #endthehockeylockout

The reality is there are few better words but do not worry here are a few more quotable quotes via that social media giant of 140 characters or less.

From Ken Schott of The Daily Gazette:

#NFLNetwork-TWC dispute? Done. #NFL vs. Refs? Over. #NHLLockout? Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock. #NHL

Then Brodie Brazil of CSN Bay Area chimed in:

#nfl lockout with refs is over, LARGELY due to recent public pressure. could that same response help resolve #nhl labor problems too?

The reality is all the public pressure in the world is not going to get Donald Fehr and Gary Bettman to agree on anything. The locked out NFL referees were a completely different situation. If you are a league that has locked out players for an entire season, a little public pressure is going to bother you like a little gnat that gets swatted the second it hits your nose. It doesn’t even phase the NHL and the reality is the NHLPA is more united than they ever were eight years ago.

Basically in other words, this looks like it has a long way to go before it hits the endgame. There is definitely a point where Mr. Bettman should get out of his own way for the sake of the league but that does not appear likely either. There is no easy way out of this. That Bettman option will never be considered because of the commissioner and his ego. Reality dictates this very fact and it probably has fans the most upset.

I do not blame you in the least. It hurts me too and it hurts financially. More importantly this really impacts so much more than you or me. If you think about the workers in and around the arenas, the NHL causes that take a hit, the NHL workers that have to take a pay cut, and much more are feeling that pinch that appears likely to become only worse.

Likely, in the next few days, the preseason will be officially wiped out by the league and then the deeper reality sets in of regular season games getting the old ax. Again protests do not work hockey fans but there is something that could if the message is done right.

How about not going to the games when they come back? That’s right. Stay home and watch the NHL from the comfort of your couch or reclining chair. If the league really does get 50% of its revenue (higher in Canada) from the gates then what better way to really put the screws to them. There comes a time and point where enough is enough perhaps.

What do the fans ultimately have to realize is that they control the fortunes of the league. While protests do not work, their time and money spent in some other ways does harm the NHL. No one wants to hurt something that they truly love and enjoy but there is that idea of “tough love” and after four work stoppages in the last 20 years or so, maybe that “oh they will always come back” should be replaced with “what if they do not”.

It would be a nice thought and a way to truly send a message. Do not go running back all at once like the wound was never there. Let the two sides (NHL and NHLPA) stew for a good long while and make them really think about what happened so this never happens again. Maybe it will work and maybe it will not but one thing it will do is actually make them think. Money talks in this business and when that money is not coming into the coffers, strange things occur.

There are other alternatives of the hockey related variety that a fan can spend their money on. This lockout really has spurred people on in different directions. Add in all the options that were not available eight years ago and one has a recipe that really could turn some of those thoughts into reality. It is time to list a few of those options for you, the beleaguered hockey fan.

Hey what about us? (File Photo / THW)

The minor leagues are definitely a good idea to explore. Whether it is the AHL or the ECHL, it does not matter. There is some quality hockey in each league. The bonus is that the AHL has seen a definite boost in talent while even the ECHL will see a slight increase as well. A league like the AHL definitely benefits as some teams were no doubt struggling. It is definitely a league worth putting your money into as a lot of the younger players and a few older ones will be displaying their skills. There are ways to watch online on a pay per view basis and potentially some ways to watch it via internet streaming. The ECHL should ways to listen to the games and some streaming sites may have ways to watch.

Also, there is the KHL, for those brave enough to try and learn a new language. Yes most broadcasts are in Russian but hockey is hockey after all and with the lack of a NHL, this may arguably be the highest level of professional hockey to watch. If you look at the other European leagues, the KHL is the one where it seems the most players, particularly Russian, are headed off to. Evgeni Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk are just a few of the players that have gone overseas along with Alex Ovechkin to play in Russia.

This is just scratching the surface. Realistically fans should be thinking about the juniors and local hockey leagues. The NHL may be the best game in town but it is far from the only game in town. I understand the feelings of immense frustration. However, take some times and explore the alternatives. You may just be surprised at what you find plus it may just help you survive this lockout.

In Part Two, we take a sneak peak at the junior ranks and much more. Stay tuned!

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