Just so we’re clear, I don’t really have any idea whether or not there will be a lock-out, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find a few months, or even a season or two, canceled. If you want to know what I think the reasons for this mess are, I have two answers. It could be one, the other, or both:
- Gary Bettman has his entire self-worth (legacy, whatever) wrapped up in whether or not his “vision” of the NHL succeeds. His vision equals the expansion of the league to thirty teams. He will not allow any form of contraction to occur, because that would mean he, Gary Bettman, failed. However, there are teams struggling in markets that can’t sustain them. Contraction ought to occur, but won’t. Instead: revenue sharing. But “sharing” in this case means that someone has to pay to keep the small markets afloat. Who will pay? The big markets? Um, no. No, and Bettman has no leverage over the big markets. If he said, “the right thing to do for the health of the league is for the big markets to support the small ones, and so that is what you must do,” the response would be: “You’re fired.” So the only people who can keep the small markets afloat are…the players. So, in short, the players must pay so that Bettman’s legacy can live.
- The owners just want the money. They don’t need a reason.
Can Fans Make a Difference?
No. Nobody cares. You can make Youtube videos, write impassioned letters to the league, stand outside league offices with signs, circulate petitions, what have you. But it makes no difference at all. Fans can’t make a difference because fans aren’t a “side” in this debate. We aren’t management. We aren’t labor. We’re the ****ing raw materials from which their profit is extracted. So unless we as fans want to commit specific dollar amounts in advance to a larger political organization (“The United Hockey Fan Association”) which can then throw its multi-billion dollar vote around, we have no power whatsoever. And, p.s., we wouldn’t have power then either, because the UHFA would have to elect or hire its own leader(s) and lawyers and they, like Bettman, Fehr, et al, would have the power.
Is This the End of the World?
No, it’s a gift. It’s hundreds of hours freed up to do other things. And if you want hockey, there’s plenty to go around. The Kings have an excellent AHL team in Manchester, and I’m going to be buying the AHL’s (absurdly expensive but what can I do) streaming package. There are ECHL teams. There’s college hockey. There’s OHL, WHL, QMJHL hockey. And, maybe best of all, there’s local hockey. Youth hockey. Adopt your local team. Find a good program. Become the fan of a Midget AAA team or whatever. (Try a Mite or Squirt team; there are like 100 breakaways a game.) If you think the hockey is less exciting than NHL, I think you will be surprised. Plus, it’s free.
Like I said, I don’t think we can make a difference, by which I mean, a real, political difference. This thing is going to happen the way it’s going to happen no matter what we do. But I do think it would be useful for us, as fans, to keep track of what we did. I mean, with the money. The hockey money. The money we would have spent on the NHL, whether that’s through tickets, merchandise, concessions, cable packages, etc..
My pledge is to keep track of every penny I would have spent on NHL hockey, and keep a diary of where I spend it instead. Maybe I’ll save it for my kid’s college. Maybe I’ll remodel the bathroom. Maybe I’ll consciously give it all to another sport.
I invite everyone to join me.
As anyone who has ever tried to keep a budget knows, it starts to get interesting when you see how much you spend on x, and sometimes you find that you would rather spend it on y, and when x comes back into play, you find it’s not as important as you thought.
How much, exactly?
All those tickets, hot dogs, parking spaces, baby-sitters, drinks at LA Live before or after the game, Center Ice packages, ESPN Insider subscriptions, jerseys, hats, shirts, gas to and from games, etc., etc., it adds up.
- Gas, 42 miles round trip (for me), rush-hour mileage 13 MPG, that’s (rounding off) three gallons of gas, $13 bucks. Forty one games: $533.
- Parking, $10 x 41 games: $410.
- Food at game, $40 x 41: $1640.
- Center Ice Package: $150.
- Baby-sitter, $15/hr, 5 hours per game, 41 games: $3075.
- Merchandise for kids (hats, shirts, jerseys, pucks, programs): $1000 per season.
- Tip-a-King (etc.) NHL charity events: $200.
- Oh, and actual season tickets: $2580-$10,190 for a pair (range, depending on where your seats are, obviously).
Your results will vary. Everybody’s different. Maybe you don’t have to pay a sitter. Maybe you have three seats, not two. Maybe you have a ten game plan, or half-season. Maybe you only go to a game or two every year, but even that quickly adds up.
Maybe I’ll take the family on a big vacation instead. Or put that money away for college. Probably could grow to about a year’s worth of school many years down the road. “The 2012 Lock-Out Scholarship.” Thanks, Gary!
What are you going to spend your NHL money on?