Over the past several months with the expiration of the current CBA looming, we the fans have been waiting patiently for the signing of a new one. Most expected it to get done in the months of summer to avoid a labour strike, but here we are in September - no CBA, and no hockey. Now I know that the process of creating a new agreement is by no means easy, but you would think that coming off one of the most profitable years for the league, there would be more urgency to get it done. The reason that fans are so irate, whether it be with the NHLPA, the NHL, or both - is because we have had to endure an entire summer with talks picking up only in the latter half. Now I use the term ”pick up” very lightly. As you may know, the NHL released a message to fans this morning (if you have yet to see it, it can be found here) - not an apology, a message. Within the first thirty seconds of reading it, I was angered.
“Despite the expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the National Hockey League has been, and remains, committed to negotiating around the clock to reach a new CBA that is fair to the Players and to the 30 NHL teams.”
Sorry, but since when does “committed to negotiating around the clock” mean to meet up around once a week, break off talks, and not hold any meetings in the last day that the CBA was in-tact? Then it goes on about how this past season was one of the league’s finest. Correct me if I’m wrong, but wouldn’t that mean they would try their hardest to build on that momentum? I guess the NHL would rather take George Costanza’s approach, and leave after a high note has been reached. What bothers myself, and many other hockey fans about this message is why, nowhere in those 231 words did we see one that would have held any type of meaning - sorry. Now I’m not saying that would have made everything better, but really NHL? You send a message to your irate fans trying to make them understand your garbage, and you only use it to feed them more garbage? Something is not adding up here. This comes as a surprise, as I am sure we are all familiar with the NHL’s amazing apology strategies for the last lockout in 2004/2005; writing “Thank You Fans” on the ice sure made me feel a lot better - how about you?
What doesn’t make me feel better, however, is how the fans are what fuel the league. Without the fans, the NHL would be nothing. We are the ones buying the tickets, merchandise, jerseys, apparel – heck, we even buy toasters that are branded with our favourite teams – so that people, seemingly so similar to us, can have a life we can only dream of; and make millions doing it, at that. The reality is, the players get paid an excessive amount of money to play a game, and that is all because of us. The league generated 3.3 billion dollars in revenue, and you cannot think of a way to divide that? Mo’ money, mo’ problems I guess. Now even though the players get paid a stupid amount to play a game, majority of the money is rightfully theirs. It is because of them that arenas get filled in, night in – night out (apologies to the Islanders).
At the end of the day, fans are not paying their hard-earned money to watch the owners sit in the press box. We don’t walk around with Brian Burke jerseys, either. Before Chicago drafted the likes of Kane and Toews they were pretty much last in attendance and almost headed for bankruptcy. Now, they sell out the Madhouse on Madison and are atop the league in revenue. One can make the argument that the players would not be there without the owners, but in the end, the owner’s jobs depend on the players – whose careers depend on us. The NHL and NHLPA are fighting over our money. I am not saying that we are not partially to blame – we created this monster – we still go out and buy jerseys, merchandise and tickets. That says a lot, considering how most NHL fans are regular, blue-collar folks with 9-5 jobs just trying to get by.
In conclusion, NHL, I leave you with this: While you are fighting over billions of dollars, think about us. You know that kid who works the concession stands trying to put himself through university; That father who worked a week straight of overtime, just to take his daughter to her first hockey game. While you are trying to divvy up those 3 billion dollars, think about the people who put you in this prestigious position. With the way it’s being handled right now, it’s a good thing for you we do not have the ability to take it all back. But then again, writing Thank You Fans on the ice makes everything better, right?