Apathy, Annoyance, Anger, and the NHL Lockout

Fan picture
Soon to be locked-out fans. (Ross Bonander/THW)


This post may come off as a rant. But what else do hockey fans have left to do?

I haven’t written about hockey for most of the summer. Besides a post about the naming of Gabriel Landeskog as Avalanche captain, I’ve been extremely quiet this offseason. It’s not because there hasn’t been much to write about. In fact, some may argue that all this lockout business provides endless opportunities to dig in to the business of the sport and the personalities at the helm. I disagree, and I think most, if not all, hockey fans would much rather have a boring offseason with little to talk about in August than an impending lockout of doom.

It sucks. The NHL lockout sucks.

In November 2010, I was at a conference and listened as Gary Bettman and Bill Daly took part in roundtable discussions about the sports industry. Lookin  g back on their quotes, here is what sticks out most from what Bettman said:

“If you’re going to have a work stoppage, you better fix your problems”

“If you have problems, you better address them because they’re only going to get worse”

So the NHL has problems. And they’re trying to fix them. But in 2004-05, the problems were as much financially based as they were fundamental problems with the game itself. Not enough scoring. Clutching and grabbing. Competitive balance. These were some of the huge issues that needed to be fixed the last time the league shut its doors. And it worked. The game is better because of the last lockout.

This time, however, no one is trying to figure out how to fix the game. The buzz words this time are “hockey related revenue,” “revenue sharing,” “contract length.” In other words, nothing that most hockey fans actually care about.

I don’t blame Bettman and I don’t blame Donald Fehr or Allan Walsh or ESPN or anyone. There’s no doubt that hockey is a business. I get that. But it doesn’t mean we need to be reminded of it with a lockout every few years. We’re already reminded of it when a jersey costs $300 or when ticket prices are raised even higher or when our favorite player isn’t resigned because the team can’t give him an additional $500,000. And we’re definitely reminded of it when the league brags about record revenues year after yeah. If the fans are the most important part of the sport (and I think in hockey, more so than any other sport, this argument can be made), then lockouts rooted in economics should be avoided.

That last statement is a special kind of BS, actually. Because even if I can make a pretty fair argument that hockey fans make the sport, the millionaires and billionaires who actually make the sport happen don’t care. I don’t even think they care about the business – not when they’re paying millions upon millions to sign the players they claim make too much. But w

hen people get riled up because Bettman implies that he’s not worried about a lockout because he knows we will be back, they’re getting riled up over a true statement. Of course we’ll be back.

You can make a protest video.

YouTube player
YouTube player

You can make a website.

You can picket outside the NHL offices, boycott the NHL website, and vow to never buy tickets again.

But as soon as the NHL and the NHLPA agree to a new CBA, you’ll be pumped and ready to watch hockey again. Thus, there’s pretty much an inelastic demand when it comes to hockey and hardcore fans.

If we really wanted to “band together” and have our “voices be heard,” we wouldn’t be boycotting the NHL store or the ads or the whatever. We’d be ignoring hockey altogether, as I pretty much have for the past three months. Yeah, I’ve followed along on Twitter and TSN. I’m not perfect, and I’m not trying to stop the lockout by myself or at all. But I’m definitely disillusioned about another work stoppage when the last one is fresh in my mind, and it’s definitely tough to write about a game that is now, more than ever, a business.