“We recovered last time because we have the world’s greatest fans.” ~ Gary Bettman
PENTICTON, BC. — Those were the words of the NHL commissioner when asked about the fans in the event of yet another lockout, the third one under Gary Bettman’s leadership and the first Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiation since the 2004 lockout which, as we all remember too well, saw the NHL cancel an entire season.
With this lockout imposed upon us, fans are once again feeling frustrated, left out and helpless in this battle between millionaires and billionaires. They are absolutely right when they say that their voice isn’t being heard by either side and to be blunt, owners and players just don’t care, starting with the person running the league. It’s a sad realization, isn’t it? Especially considering that the reason why they all make that money is because of the fans.
But what can we do? I’ve read many people asking the question on Twitter and Facebook. Contrary to what some fans claim, there is something they can do. In order to properly answer the question, we have to look at both meanings.
1. FILLING THE VOID
The NHL is, for North American hardcore hockey fans, a hobby which consumes a lot of time and in some case, considerable amounts of money. Whether it’s time spent reading and discussing games, standings, trades, rumours, players, coaches, or attending hockey games or watching them on television, hockey occupies fans’ lives for hours and hours. Here are a few alternate ideas on how to occupy your time:
Support your local junior team: Go watch their games! Those young men deserve it. They battle hard and offer a great night of entertainment for a fraction of the price of a NHL game. They play for the love of the game, and perhaps future success. CHL owners are not making millions as many of them try to break even at the end of the year. Wear their colours, take pride in your local team.
Follow the AHL: The American Hockey League is the second highest level of hockey in North America. By taking interest in your team’s farm club, it will give you a golden opportunity to get to know first-hand the prospects of your NHL team without having to rely on others to decide for you. As Habs’ fans, we are fortunate to see top quality prospects making the jump to pro this year: Brendan Gallagher, Michael Bournival, Patrick Holland, Nathan Beaulieu, Morgan Ellis and Jarred Tinordi are only a few names who will take their first strides at the professional level and all are highly regarded as good prospects for the Canadiens down the road.
Take interest in other Montreal teams: in the Canadian Football League, the Alouettes are fighting once again for first place in the Eastern division and Anthony Calvillo is, at 40 years of age, putting numbers up like he has his entire career. Go watch the games, follow them on television every week, follow their players on Twitter. There’s also the Montreal Impact who joined the MLS this season and they are in the thick of things to make the playoffs in their first year in the league.
** With the addition of a new reporter covering Montreal sports, you can find stories about each of the above at All Habs! **
Major League Baseball: This is the best time of the year to follow baseball, with the playoffs’ races going on and the road to the World Series coming up. Several teams are in the running once again and it is a lot of fun to cheer against the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox in hope to see them waste their $200M payroll.
The National Football League: This is the highest caliber of football in the world and the season is just starting. Pick a team, any team, and discover the reasons why this is the most successful professional sport in North America, where proper revenue sharing allows every market team to be competitive.
* All Habs Fantasy Sports allows fans to experience what it is like to ‘own and manage’ a team in baseball, football and hockey *
Local pubs and restaurants: Many establishments rely on the hockey season to draw clients to either watch the games or to feed the fans before or after games. Make a conscious effort to go to those establishments once in a while and have a bite to eat, have a drink. They and their staff rely on that to pay their rent, buy their kids clothes for school, to make a living. They are the forgotten ones in a lockout.
Those are only a few options as I’m sure you will be able to think of your own as well.
2. PUTTING PRESSURE ON THE NHL
I have to shake my head when I read, on Twitter or elsewhere, comments to the effect fans can’t do anything to put pressure on the NHL and on the players. It’s not that fans can’t do anything, but rather the fact that they are choosing ways that don’t affect either side. Hashtags on Twitter, letters to the league or to the players association and petitions have a feel-good effect on fans, but it has absolutely no bearing on either party involved in the dispute, as clearly proven by the opening statement by Gary Bettman at the beginning of this article. By all means, do it, but don’t just stop there.
I, for one, decided to unfollow the NHL on Twitter (@NHL). They still have over a million followers so it doesn’t have an impact… yet. If they go down to a couple hundred thousand followers though, they will take note. Remember folks: you can always follow them later if you want.
But I chose to hit them where it will really hurt: hockey related revenues, the sticky point on which they are fighting for in these negotiations! This is not an empty promise. I vouch to not buy any tickets or any NHL related merchandise for at least five years. Yes, I’ll watch them on TV. What can I do? I love the game and something tells me that Geoff Molson is not necessarily to blame in this lockout, controlled in big part by Bettman and his friends Jeremy Jacobs and Ed Snider, amongst others.
I also promise to try, as much as possible, to avoid supporting the corporate sponsors of the NHL.
That’s how each individual fan can make them think twice. Of course, I don’t expect that everyone will have the willpower or the desire to do all of this but if you don’t, please stop complaining about the lockout as you are supporting it as much as Bettman himself.
Also note that this is a personal opinion and does not reflect in any way, shape or form, the views of All Habs Hockey Magazine. I’m one passionate fan who has followed the NHL for over four decades and who is tired and frustrated to be taken for granted by a commissioner who is, in my opinion, destroying the game.
En français: Lockout LNH: Les partisans doivent se lever!