VOICE OF THE NATION - Giving a Voice to the Fans

Vintage Flame
November 19 2012 11:35AM

 

 

 

 

So here we are in Day 65 of the NHL Lockout. Many of the fans have not changed their feelings on the matter as a whole, but have changed the target of their vitriol. Some have shifted their blame from the owners to the players… back to the owners and then some back on the NHLPA or vice-versa.

Regardless of the blame game, what hasn’t changed is the fact that it’s the fans getting shafted amongst the bickering and discord exhibited by both sides.

Or is it?

In Canada anyways, fans have been treated to an amazing ending to the CFL season. It doesn’t seem to matter who you cheer for in the Canadian League, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ve been treated to some pretty amazing and entertaining football; and this is coming from one who isn’t even really a fan of the Canadian flavour.

That excitement and entertainment was ramped up for both the Eastern and the Western semi-finals; and was expectation to continue into both conference finals and ultimately the Grey Cup. The Conference Finals did their part to keep the momentum going, leaving it up to the finale to hammer home the exclamation point. The Argos, led by exiled Eskimo Ricky Ray will take on the Calgary Stampeders; the team who defied a season without their first string QB to make it to the show. It's Frito Ray vs. Texas Tate...well if Tate was able to play. He's hurt again with a fractured forearm in his throwing arm.

Could the CFL ask for a better scenario in a year where it celebrates and has to do little to market its 100th anniversary for its version of Canada’s Holy Grail?

However, as the CFL’s season draws near end and the NHL seemingly closer (and then further, then closer…) to reaching a deal on a new CBA, what is going to be expected of the fans?

THE EXPECTATION NOW

We all know what is expected of us right now: “Sit tight and shut up, save your yelling for when we finally get back to work and you can go to the games and cheer like nothing ever happened.” That’s the attitude of both the NHL and NHLPA. Sound about right?

What should really drive the fans nuts is that for all intents and purposes, they’re basically right. We can complain all we want in as many forums as we can find. Whether it’s by blog, Facebook, twitter, or even calling in on the local radio station to vent over the air, but the fact remains is that the only ones listening are other fans! The players say they hear the fans frustration, but make no mistake, the only voice in their ear is that of Donald Fehr and the only frustration they are sympathetic to is their own.

As for the owners… If they aren’t listening to the players, then they certainly aren’t concerning themselves with what the fans are saying. They have a tough enough time listening to each other; I’m not sure as to how they would be able to have any sort of attention span towards the fans. Instead of listening to the fans, or the PA, the NHL seems more content to flex their muscles by cancelling more games and events such as the Winter Classic (The All-Star game can’t be far ahead). The PA is more concerned with getting paid for those cancelled games than who will be filling the seats once they get back to playing.

So where does that leave you, the fan, once everyone kisses and makes up? Don’t know about you, but I like to be kissed before I get… you know. Where’s the chapstick?

A MISGUIDED SOLUTION

That’s pretty much it @CupaCoffey [Frequent commenter Oilers4SAlberta from OilersNation], so why should the fans care anymore either?

The most popular recourse from the fans has been one of protest. So many people have said that the NHL has lost a fan for life. That they haven’t or won’t renew their season tickets because they just don’t care about a league that doesn’t care about its fans anymore. That’s fine and all - there was even hundreds of re-tweets about a fan that had mailed his Flames jersey to Gary Bettman with a note that said not only was he not prepared to buy anymore NHL merchandise, but he was returning the jersey because he didn’t need it anymore.

While I think it would be great to see the owners and players have to play to an empty house on opening night, it just isn’t realistic. Sure in today’s age where people are able to organize flash mobs of thousands of people in the blink of an eye, it pales in comparison to be able to keep hundreds of thousands people, if not millions away from the NHL on opening night. It’s just not probable and it’s the biggest reason why the owners are not in the least bit afraid of that happening.

By now some of you might be saying, “Yeah VF, we know all that, but wouldn’t it be great IF it could happen!”

Well… okay let’s play that game.

Before we even get into a massive fan sit-out of game one around the NHL, what is the message that we are hoping to send and who are we sending it to? The ticket packages are sold, so it won’t be a financial message and you won’t be hurting anyone’s wallet. Sure it might be embarrassing to the home team, but after the players from both teams share a good laugh about it, the game will get under way.

Players always say they tune the fans out once the game starts anyways, so is going to be difficult for them to play a game? If anything they would prefer that to playing all game to a chorus of “Boos” from their own fans. Hey, now that might be a part of a solution. Go to the games, you’ve already spent the money.. But boo your own team. Then again it might be just another season for the Oilers and their fans. Nevermind. Moving on…

Speaking of OilersNation, when the Lockout began on September 15th, Jonathan Willis made his Promise to the NHL and NHLPA. He said that he would not turn his back on the NHL; he would indeed still watch games and buy the sports cable packages, but that’s where it stops.

”The promise is this: I will not spend so much as a dime for the rest of my life on any of the auxiliary streams of revenue the league has.”

This is another common sentiment fans have shared along with JW. It’s an interesting one, and I believe it’s also the one that refers to the titled, “Misguided Solution”. Let’s tie this all together and you’ll see what I mean.

We’re back to opening night, the teams come out to an empty arena. We have covered the jokes and pre-game informalities shared by the players, alas the show must go on right? What many people have failed to think about in this scenario, we are no better than the owners and the players. We have lowered ourselves to their level by forgetting about the one group of people we have had a voice for in social media. Not the people on the ice or the owner’s suites, but those behind the scenes of an NHL hockey game; ourselves… the “little people”.

Consider this: while the players are on the ice doing their job, the owners would be walking around breaking the news to the support staff. With no attendance, there is no need for the parking staff to stand outside doing nothing. There is no need for ushers if there are no fans to usher. Without anyone leaving straight from work to make puck drop, there is no need for the restaurants be open, for cooks to prepare food for servers to serve no one. Sigh.. there is no need for concession staff to over pour your heroine beer so that you can either drown your sorrows or celebrate the return of the game.

If the Vintage Kurri Jersey is indeed the last piece of merchandise that he buys and if everyone were to follow suit, there would be no need to staff the shops that sell them; in fact there would be no need to make them anymore, right?

So who exactly are we hurting? Have you put any NHL players out of a job, because you sure as hell just put a lot of other people out of theirs? People like you and me, people that never deserved any of this to begin with. That is the problem with situations like this. The people you are most angry with and the ones you want to hurt back the most are basically untouchable. If you want to hurt them, you have to go through a lot of people that don’t deserve your malice first. We think we are making a statement with all these actions, but are we making the right one.

If you want to make a more impactful statement Mr. Willis make sure to go to the very first game of the season! Organize as many people as you can from OilersNation and make sure you ALL buy Oilers jerseys. Here comes the best part. Put the name of the person who sold you that jersey on the back instead of the team’s latest 1st overall pick. Then have all those people stand with their backs to the glass, their back to the players, their backs to the teams, and show who it is really that you are there to support.

YOU STILL WANT YOUR POUND OF FLESH?

Here’s my solution for all of you that still don’t think this is enough.

Once the support staffs have all done what they can do to make it an enjoyable experience for you and your crew and they have been there for the haul, you leave. When the horn goes to end the second period, get up and leave your seat and simply just don’t come back. Go to the concourse, go to the bar or to the restaurants in the arena. Get in your car and go to your favorite sports bar to give them your business or just go home if you like.

But I can guarantee that you will send more of a message to the players when they come out for the last period, they will be more shocked to see everyone left than if no one shows to begin with…and you will have spared the support staff further financial burden.

As fans we will never be able to have the effect we desire on the either side, no matter how badly we want it. When the NHL comes back, so will the fans. But, we can have a voice that’s heard by those who really matter, the people that have been hurt the most by all this nonsense. If fans can wipe the blood away from their eyes enough to see that there are more indirect ways to make their stand and send a message that is heard by a more worthy audience than the NHL or its PA, then we can all have our say. We can have the last word by being a voice for the voiceless.

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Vintage Flame is a Calgary based sports junkie that prefers to call hockey a "religion" rather than an addiction. He believes there are two types of hockey fans. Those who cheer for the Flames, and those who don't understand the sport yet. Follow Vintage_Flame on Twitter
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#1 Rob...
November 19 2012, 07:43PM
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When the season starts, I want the first player who gives a half-assed effort to be staked down at center ice and run over by a zamboni repeatedly.

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#2 SmellOfVictory
November 19 2012, 01:07PM
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Best thing we can all do is organize massive lawn poopings on the properties of various players/owners/etc. Imagine being Donald Fehr, waking up on a beautiful Sunday morning, and wandering outside to three dozen human dookies on your lawn, with a little note that says "as a thank-you for the lockout".

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#3 Dr Philosophy
November 19 2012, 11:48PM
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Five points in response: First, the jobs you mention are largely replaceable by those who hold them, particularly in Calgary’s employment market. Furthermore, in light of threats of fan retaliation, whomever actually takes such jobs these days has to at least appreciate the probability that they might be told to go home early one day because their efforts are not needed that day. That they may be so asked makes their jobs no different from many other jobs in society, particularly those in the same pay and status class.

Second, I'm unconvinced that a day of concerted fan protest is going to have the repercussions you think it will. Management is not going to go about firing all the employees because, say, no one shows up to a home opener. To state the obvious, they will still expect to need employees for all the rest of the games.

Third, I am skeptical of any attempt to show that we ought to buy whatever is on offer to support the little guy working for the man. This is dangerous logic, because it can be applied to all sorts of dynamics. Voting with dollars is one of the only sources of control a consumer of anything has.

Fourth, I think you fluctuate between different understandings of what exactly voting with a dollar entails. JW was suggesting that he would avoid spending more than he has to to get his entertainment value from the game. Then you start talking about attendance boycotts of the first game. Again, to state the obvious, not all actions are going to have the same repercussions, particularly for the little guy.

Fifth, this sentence is false: “If they aren’t listening to the players, then they certainly aren’t concerning themselves with what the fans are saying.” No shrewd business owner would disconnect with his consumer in this way, no matter what. And the fact there’s a labour dispute at all means these are shrewd business owners. Also, I’m considerably more charitable to the players on this matter than you. Just because both groups think they can get away with pissing off fans doesn’t mean they don’t listen to them. Both groups have something that they think fans want, and hearing how angry fans are only reinforces this take.

Sixth, and finally, any protest is not simply aimed at directly impacting the finances of the owners or the players. No political protest has ever done this—it’s not the (immediate) point of a protest. The point of the protest is to make a symbolic point, a stand of sorts, that will, over the long term, be the basis of a movement that DOES make a systemic change. In that sense, then, in this article you’ve missed the point of protesting. That leads you to the absurd recommendation to actually continue on as if nothing had happened excepting a jersey foul (although I couldn't tell if you were serious about this or not).

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#4 Kevin R
November 20 2012, 12:15PM
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@Dr Philosophy

By going into a behavioral analysis of the reaction & what possible protest from a large group(fans) you must know any protest will be short term whether the its a boycott or whatever. That is what the NHL & NHLPA know very well, dont think they havent calculated the short term retaliation & have put a $$$ value on its consequence. The difference from other previous lockouts to today is that large groups(fans) are globally connected through internet, twitter and so forth. But the principal of the psychology of group behavior wont change, it will be that short term retalliation of fans, but will be greater in magnitude from 2004-05.

If you want to look at the long term effects of this lockout and social behavior of larger groups(the fans), well that is much more complicated. Quite frankly, something I dont think the NHL/NHLPA are ready for & will probably be one of the bigger obstacles moving forward with agreeing to a new CBA. It is well documented in medical journals that multi variants impact behavior & consequently the health of an individual. It amazes me when I hear on Hockey Central that there isnt urgency yet for both sides to come up with their best deal. They are are ignoring one of the biggest socio/economic variants that is going to dictate longterm behavior of the fans. The fact there is a global financial crisis, bank failures, foreclosures, unemployment just overall economic scenarios in the world that are unprecedented, that tells me there should have been urgency for a new CBA in September. What both sides are fighting about just didnt come up after Sept 15th & they chose to ignore these issues & ignore the variants that will impact the long term behavior of their consumers. No City is the same on this as well. If consumers are tight on money but still found a way to spend on the game of Hockey that they love, they will more likely continue to do so. However, if that is taken away via an extended lockout, when money is tight, it will take much longer for them to find the motivation to put $$$ to go to entertainment after they have seen how important those $$$ were when they put it to other neccessities of life.

So after that long babel, I havent decided to give up my tickets yet or not. I love hockey but really I am more missing my hockey pools than actually going to the games. In fact economics have been forcing me to re evaluate the corporate cost of our tickets. So when they get back to hockey, as a fan this lockout hasnt taken away my love for the game as you said VF. I will care about my team & debate it in forums like this. I will watch games on TV & on some pay per views, will be in 3 different hockey pools to psycho analyse players & teams over a few beers & if I feel that inclined, I may buy tickets to the odd game. But I do guarantee, the amount of $$$ I am currently contributing personally & corporately to the HRR will decrease dramatically. I cant be alone on this & if that doesnt concern both sides on a larger scale. Well...............

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#5 Craig L
November 23 2012, 11:26AM
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After 7 seasons we called to cancel our flames season tickets over a month ago, not because of the lockout but for financial reasons. We couldn't justify paying for something and getting nothing in return when living pay cheque to pay cheque. After calling we were told they would need a written formal letter stating why, signed and mailed to them to cancel. It had to be done by the other guy I split the tickets with, who happens to live out of town, even though both our names are on the acct, and the payments come out of my acct each month. We were also continuously told that no one else is cancelling their tickets and that they guarantee that there will be a season this year.

So we get the letter in and call to make sure that our acct is canceled, this is when we are told that they only mail out refund cheques on the first of the month. This isn't too bad since its only a few days away. He starts checking his mail box the week it should have been sent, and by Friday still with no cheque we decide to call and find out where it is and no one can tell us anything. Then the 15th rolls around and we get a call from them saying, "sorry we processed your payment but it has been reversed and your cheque is in the mail".

We now check the mailbox for another couple days and big surprise no cheque. We call again and get the same run around. 3 days later we find out the cheque is sitting at our finance department and will be mail out on the first of the month. "Can you just deposit it back in the acct we payed from"? Nope. "Can we come pick it up"? Nope. "Why"? This is our process.

This to me shows that they really could care less about the fans and its all about the money. We didn't want to cancel them but financially were forced to and they would rather make a few bucks interest off our couple thousand then help out a long time season ticket holder. I'm not going to say "I won't give them another dime" because I love hockey and have been a flames fan my entire life. Our plan was to put our names back on the season ticket list after we got the refund money since it costs you just to wait for them to become available and still might.

Just thought I would share our experience.

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#6 SeanCharles
November 19 2012, 12:36PM
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I remember back in September saying to myself if the lockout extended for too long, I would stop supporting the game I love so much.

But the sad truth is I can't wait for hockey to come back. The lockout is frustrating but I will still watch the games and pay for season tickets when it starts up again.

If this would have happened a year or two ago I might have stopped watching and caring for awhile. But the truth of it is I'm pretty excited to be a flames fan nowadays, with the new management and youth movement on the go, its difficult to not care.

Thats why Bettman nailed when he said we have the best fans, I think its true because we all love hockey and just want to start watching and cheering again.

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#7 bookofloob
November 19 2012, 12:39PM
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Nope. Fans voices will be heard about as much as protesters in any other conflict's voices will be heard.

Quite frankly, I prefer it that way. Fanbases are groups of people sharing a common bond. Many of these people are sane and rational. But fanbases as an entity are inherently idiotic, and there's a real good reason why players and owners don't care what they have to say.

Obviously I'm not here to condone the inaction of the league and PA, they are indefensible at this point. But they know fans come and go even in the best of times, they're not going to change their tune now.

I've heard people comment on how both sides have lost the PR battle by trying and failing to cater to the fans. I couldn't disagree more. I think both sides have been explicitly honest in admitting that the best interest of the fans haven't factored into the conversation at all.

That's the only truth evidenced in this whole scenario and I find it oddly comforting as a result

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#9 Jonathan Willis
November 24 2012, 10:27AM
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I'm a little late on this, but I wanted to make a couple of points:

1) The only thing that discourages lockouts is damage to revenues. Any other protest is pointless as long as dollars keep going to the league. That damage is not going to be caused by people like me - it's going to be caused by fans who tune out entirely. I doubt it happens, and if it does it won't be because of my actions.

2) Everyone has a right to spend their money however they like. I love hockey but my enjoyment of the game isn't going to be hampered at all if I confine my spending to 'money absolutely necessary to just watch the games.' So that's what I'm going to do.

3) As for the little guys... this is Alberta. The unemployment rate in Calgary is 4.4%. If enough people abstained from concessions - a doubtful proposition, but let's run with it - then these guys would need to go out and get another job. Maybe we'd be crushing the life long dream of somebody who has always wanted to sell nachos at sporting events, but somehow I doubt it.

Put another way: I'm going to stop wasting money on stuff, and I'm not going to feel even a tiny bit bad for doing so.

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