Lockout: It is a word that no hockey fan wishes to hear.
But lo and behold, the NHL and its greedy owners have disgraced us with the second lockout in the past decade, and no resolution seems imminent. All preseason games have already been canceled, and regular season games are on deck.
So what should we hockey fans do to help end this brutal lockout? It may sound far-fetched, but just ask the NFL.
The NFL, arguably the most popular sports league in America, went through a tough stretch of their own in the past few weeks. Due to the lockout of the referees, the NFL turned to raw and inexperienced “replacement” officials to ref the start of the 2012 season.
That turned out to be a disaster, as the replacements blew calls left and right, drawing the ire of players, coaches, and fans from around the league.
This all led to an inevitable “breaking” point, when the referees completely botched a call at the end of the Green Bay Packers vs. Seattle Seahawks game on Monday Night Football (Sept. 24), which cost the Packers the game.
Up to September 24th, there had been little progress made in the talks between the NFL and its referees to reach a deal. On September 26th, a tentative deal was struck, the “real” referees would be back on the field the next day, and players, coaches, and fans from across the league rejoiced.
So how did that work? How did the NFL reach an agreement in two days, while the NHLPA and the owners continue to take their sweet little time to make a deal?
The answer is simple: public outrage from players, coaches, and fans, pressuring the league to get a deal done as soon as possible.
The NFL’s replacement refs warranted a ton of negative reaction in the media and on social networking. Players and fans alike complained on Twitter, and the NFL’s commissioner’s office was flooded with angry voicemails. All of this public pressure obviously worked, as the NFL and the referees union worked swiftly to get a deal done.
We have not seen anything close to that with this NHL lockout thus far.
Although they obviously hope for the lockout to end, players and coaches aren’t necessarily griping about it to the media. Instead, they’re taking their talents to other hockey leagues, even overseas. Among these players are household names Rick Nash, Joe Thornton, and Evgeni Malkin. What kind of a message is sent when the faces of the NHL are simply waiting for the lockout to end while leisurely playing overseas?
Imagine what would happen if every single player and coach called commissioner Gary Bettman’s office and demanded that the lockout end immediately? Or if the players and coaches started tweeting about how ridiculous this lockout is? I can bet that Bettman and the rest of the gang would start picking up the pace a bit, considering that their most valuable assets (the players) are pushing them to reach a deal.
Then there’s the media. We’ve seen plenty of articles criticizing the NFL and their replacement referees, but have there been many articles written by the mainstream media that criticize the NHL for this lockout? In a previous post, I asked whether the mainstream media would give up on hockey as the lockout loomed, and the answer is probably a “yes.” In order for this lockout to be resolved faster, the media has to play its role to make people aware of the lockout, and to help rally for a resolution.
Last but not least comes the fans. At the end of the day, the NHL depends on us to fill their pockets with ticket and merchandise purchases. In return, we get to unite and enjoy the great game that is hockey.
So why can’t the fans rally up and push those greedy money-grabbers to get a deal done? Voice your displeasure on Facebook and Twitter, leave voicemails at the league office, hold a march up Times Square. Hell, go ahead and “occupy” Gary Bettman’s lawn until a deal gets done.
The point is, nothing is going to resolved, and the lockout will not end unless the negotiators are forced to speed things up. The NFL got the job done because of public pressure, so why can’t the same thing happen in the NHL?