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
— CupaCoffey (@Oilers4SAlberta) November 17, 2012
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.