NHL Fans: Don’t Go Away Mad, Just Go Away

Don't go away mad, just go away

You’re an NHL fan. You spend your hard-earned money every year going to games. You buy merchandise. You subscribe to Centre Ice. You’ve been through one, maybe two lockouts, and even a strike if you’re really old. And now they’re threatening to make you go through yet another lockout.

This makes you mad.

So mad, in fact, that you’re willing to take action and show the world just how angry you are. And maybe, just maybe, your action combined with the actions of thousands of other outraged fans might even have an impact and a lockout will be avoided or at least shortened.

Well, you have every right to be outraged. But make no mistake, the angrier you get and the more you show it, the more you ensure the lockout goes on.

Think about it. Putting effort, energy and passion into showing your displeasure and trying to avoid a lockout just shows how passionate about NHL hockey you are. And if you’re passionate enough to take time out of your day to go and protest at the NHL offices or boycott NHL-related businesses, you’re sure as heck passionate enough to come back to the rink no matter how long the lockout lasts:

Take our money, please

And this is exactly what the owners are counting on. From their perspective, the NHL really does have the "world’s greatest fans:"

In the lockout-shortened season of 1994-95, each game averaged 50 more people in attendance compared with the previous season. The results were more impressive for the 2005-06 season, the first full year of hockey under the expiring CBA. The NHL reported a 2.4% increase in attendance over the 2003-04 season, and in the process, the league averaged a record 16,955 fans per contest. For the next three years, the NHL continued breaking its regular season attendance records.

Let that digest that for a second.

Need a Tums yet? You will.

A couple of weeks ago, @draglikepull put together a nice little summary estimating team-by-team ticket revenues, which added up to $1.2 billion. So if this lockout is anything like the last one, you the NHL fans, will flood back to the tune of about $30 million in additional ticket revenue. (Note: This is for illustrative purposes only. Past performance is not an indication of future results.)

So what’s an NHL fan to do when throwing a tantrum is actually counter-productive? Hopefully if you’ve read this far down, you’ll know the answer is not: "spend countless hours putting together a video with really nice production values based on the Howard Beale rant from the movie Network in the hopes of getting fans to unite to stop the lockout." I mean, nice sentiment, but shame about the facts:

Nice sentiment, shame about the facts

No, as Motley Crüe put it, "Don’t go away mad. Just go away." The owners are not going to be at all concerned about what you the fan thinks about the NHL as long as you’re still thinking about the NHL:

Apathy rules

So if you want to make a difference, go away. And I don’t mean go watch other forms of hockey like Juniors, the AHL or the NCAA. That’s like going on methadone. The owners know that once you get a sniff of the good stuff, you’ll be back mainlining it like, well, Motley Crüe in their heyday.

For real impact, go away to one of the other major league sports. Drive up the attendance of your local NFL, MLB and, god forbid, NBA team. Buy their merchandise. Subscribe to their cable, pay-per-view and online access packages. This you can do loudly.

Because, ultimately, the most likely way to end this lockout is to appeal to the owner’s greed:

The end of the NHL lockout

* You may wonder what this has to do with the NHL lockout ending, but rumour has it that Gary Bettman negotiated the rights to hold the Winter Classic in Hell should it ever freeze over. All it cost him was getting booed at every public appearance he ever makes. Small price to pay, in the overall scheme of things and just one more example of his shrewdness as a negotiator.

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  • The poster formerly known as Koolaid drinker #33

    Good read.

    I bitched and screamed about never watching hockey again during the last two lockouts,. But the reality is, as soon as I see the first Nuge to Eberle one timer hi-lite, I’m a fan again.

    Hockey for me is that girl that totally abuses and treats you like crap but you can’t give her up cause she’s amazing in the sack.

  • justDOit

    As for the looming CBA grief, it would make me feel better if the strategies and lessons learned in the new NFL deal were being looked at by either the owners or PA.

    According to this article:
    http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2011/07/25/the-cba-in-a-nutshell/

    The new NFL contract saw a cap reduction, but new rules for the salary floor to increase overall spending and for revenue sharing to help with that. It also included a $3.5M borrow from a future year, and some more basic bargaining points like safety. Limits were placed on full-on practices and more down time during the season guaranteed.

    I’m sure that the NHLPA could come up with a few ways in which they could make the job safer for it’s members, and how that might also financially benefit the membership. Sure helps to renegotiate when you’ve been healthy all year, it’s easier to hit your bonus goals from outside the infirmary.

  • OilLeak

    Uh no. Hockey is like crack and nothing really replaces it for me.

    More studying? Nope.

    More exercise? This works, but dealing with several injuries that will take a few months to heal, so nope.

    More video games or tv? Not really, works for a short time, but doesn’t really satiate my appetite for hockey.

    I really hope that season isn’t canceled but I’ll probably tune into the OKC barons especially if Hall++ are playing there during the lockout.

  • Wax Man Riley

    If you want to make a difference, don’t support the stations that gave the NHL $400M, and cancel your cable package. Watch the games online.

    Don’t buy merchandise. Unsubscribe from twitter feeds, unlike Facebook pages, and disconnect from the advertising on their websites (firefox, noScript, Adblocker).

    Don’t support the owner’s businesses (Rexall, Molson, Roger’s/Bell, Birchwood, etc…).

    I don’t know that this will get the season started sooner, but that is the only way to get back at those “greedy” owners.

  • puck-bandit

    I agree with everything you say here as it makes perfect sense. I also agree with the people who say that Canadians will come back, we always do. Americans and the NFL have a similar relationship, although I think the NFL treats its fans better.

    Besides, I don’t think 50 year old white guys from Edmonton are going to be buying a lot of oversize LeBron James gear.

  • puck-bandit

    Focusing on Bettman is playing right into the hands of the corporate entities that own the teams. They dictate policy, not Bettman. His reptilian personality insures that fan frustration is directed at him, not the people whose orders he is following. They get a free pass and Bettman gets $8 million a year as a result.

    Sure, boo the guy when he shows up at your arena but always remember he is just an empty suit. Think of the corporations that own the Rangers, Leafs and Habs. Think of Snider and Jacobs and the Wirtzes. Don’t boo Charles Manson’s defence lawyer. Boo Charlie.

  • After seeing the “Together We Can” video the other day, I’ll say that it’s a good video, but a little too one-sided toward the players IMO.

    The problem is, six years after an entire NHL season was lost to a long, drawn out strike, NO ONE has learned anything, and in 2012 I see it as being BOTH SIDES who are to blame if another one occurs this year. However let’s be honest, we have the owners sticking to their guns during the summer of 2005 and the emergence of a salary cap system to thank for the not only the NHL making record profits from 2006-12, but for teams like Edmonton, Calgary, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Phoenix (pain in our collective butts), Carolina, Miami, Tampa, and more to even continue to exist – many of which are now up and coming, or massively competitive franchises, to even exist in the NHL as they do today (not that a downsizing of the league by at least 3-5 teams would be a horrible thing to be completely honest).

    Today’s game has the league and it’s owners making record revenues over the last six years, but that goes hand-in-hand with what the players are making in today’s game. So when it comes to revenue sharing – seemingly the largest sticking point – why should the players take a larger piece of the pie than the people owning the arenas, the teams signing their cheques, and the people which give them the opportunity to play the game for a living?

    Do Crosby, Malkin, Ovechkin, etc deserve to make over $8M/year? Well, without getting into politics outside of sports, but STRICTLY for their skill, what they do for the game, and the NHL wanting to use their names and faces to sell the NHL name, then I say yes they do. HOWEVER, does a 3rd liner deserve $3-4M/season while teams have no recourse? No. I believe that both sides need to give and take respectively right now, and not believe it’s just a one-way street while contract lengths are ludicrous, and front-loaded contracts are strictly built just to circumvent the meaning of a cap system (while paying the agents more than they’re worth) and hang a team later on as the player ages and his performance declines (looking at you Kovalchuk, Parise, Suter).

    Why does a 50/50 revenue split not make sense FOR THE LONGEVITY of the league to these so-called “businessmen”?

    If a player wants a 12-year deal, why is a team not able to have any financial recourse against him in a salary cap era should they continuously under-perform? *COUGH* YASHIN *COUGH*. Instead, their only options are to buy him out and still have to pay roughly half his so-called “allowed” salary, or demote him like the Oilers with Souray, and still be hung for half his salary while he gets paid to play while also be signed by yet another NHL team)?

    Until someone comes to their senses, I refuse to side with the players or the league during this stoppage because I think both sides are being unreasonable, arrogant, and stubborn.

    Do the players have legitimate concerns? Of course. Do the owners though? Hell yes. However, both sides NEED to realize that each of them are EQUALLY responsible for growing the game as much as it has since 2006, as well as digging themselves into a hole of deep stupidity when it comes to contracts and salaries.

    What does it all mean? Now we, the fans, are going to be the ones paying for it.

  • Wax Man Riley

    I think its time we as hockey fans all across the league unite and chant “FIRE BETTMAN” at every game and in every arena until he’s far far removed from the sport of hockey… it worked for Leaf fans when they wanted Wilson gone right!?

    • Graphic Comments

      Bettman is doing exactly what Snider and Jacobs want him to do. He’s not getting fired no matter how much anyone outside the NHL BoG rants and raves.

      Plus, for purely selfish reasons, I like having him around. He’s easy to make fun of. :p

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      wow so everyone on here seems to be siding with the NHLPA from the sounds of it. Can’t agree with you. Let me put things in a different perspective.

      The CBA negotiations are like a bad divorce. For a group of 30 divorcee’s the agreement stands as the following.

      – From here on in and the foreseeable future you will pay your ex-wife/husband 57% of your total income.

      – From your 43% you will pay for your ex-wife’s/Husband’s house including utility bills, maintenance and Renovations when required(Stadium, locker room etc.), Vehicle (transportation for away games), and Vacations (Hotels and equipment transport for away games)

      – It is likely that you and approx. half the divorcee’s are losing small to large sums of money every year with the exception of a few that are loaded, but is it their responsibility to make sure your financials are up to par by giving you some of their wealth?

      Re-negotiations go nowhere because the ex’s are happy with the amount they get from you regardless of your situation and don’t seem willing to come to any compromises in the agreement.

      Does this sound like an acceptable agreement to you?

          • paul wodehouse

            You’re missing the part where the ex has to work for you and is the main reason you make anything in the first place.

            As for a business paying their employees more than they make, well, that’s not what’s happening. They are paying the employees more than half of what the company makes. I think there are a lot of companies where the salaries of the employees make up more than half of the costs for the company. In fact, I’d guess that any company with highly skilled workers is paying over half of their net income to their employees. The players aren’t asking for 107%.

          • @S_2_H

            First off if they don’t want to work in the NHL thats perfectly fine there are many willing to take their spot and I’m sure the fans wouldn’t be hurt by it.

            Second no company goes out of their way and says before the year even starts that the employees are getting 57% of whatever they make this year. They pay them Salaries and hourly wages and after that its up to the buisness to run properly if they want higher profits. Not to mention if your employees don’t live up to their pay you can fire them.

          • G Money

            Not sure I follow your math.

            For lots of high-tech companies, labour is indeed their largest cost by far. For example, I ran a very successful software company (250 employees, $80M revenue, $35M profit). Employee costs made up 70% of our overall costs.

            The math looked like this:

            Revenue = $80M
            Costs = $55M
            Profit = $35M
            Employee costs = 70% x $55M = $38.5
            Non employee costs = $16.5
            Employee costs as a % of revenue = 38.5/80 = 48%

            In the hockey situation, player costs are making up 57% of the revenue. The equivalent numbers for my company, all else being equal, would be:

            Revenue = $80M
            Costs = $45.6 employee costs (57% of revenue) + $16.5 non emp = $62.1
            Profit = $17.9

            Notice that in the first case, employee costs were already higher than the profits. In the hockey equivalent case, employee costs are now more than double the profit.

            Whatever the hockey situation is, I can guarantee that most teams are not that profitable on a percentage basis.

            The players should accept that 50% of HRR is not only fair, it is bloody generous and take the deal. There are a hell of a lot more hockey players out there willing to play the game for money than there are billionaires willing to subsidize those players.

          • justDOit

            Well actually, labor is quite often the biggest cost to a business. What dictates success is how much revenue is left over in profit, and this is highly debatable in the NHL. The ‘books’ are often criticized as being inaccurate, or at the very least, the numbers are open to interpretation.

            What I don’t see as debatable, is the position the owners are in. Sure, the PA has a lot of power, in that without the players there is no HRR.

            I see as the NHL’s main advantage being leverage. The rich owners/teams can afford to take a year off and use their arenas for more events and concerts. The break-even teams don’t really suffer if they have to close their doors either, and the money losing teams actually win when they don’t play hockey (hello Glendale city council).

            The players didn’t want the current CBA because it contained a salary cap. But what the cap actually did for the players, is level off the Sakic and Fedorov contracts of $14M – $16M with the rollback and cap, and bring up the salaries of the other players with a salary floor. Sure the 24% rollback hurt them all, but at the end of this CBA, we’ve now got salaries back up into the $12M – $14M range again. Middling players are getting $3M – $4M contracts, and the league minimum is near $1M. Please tell me how the players have suffered under this CBA.

            No, I’m not against unions – quite the opposite. But if I had received salary increases over the last five years like the NHL salary cap has experienced, I’d be more than a little willing to take a 15% cut to keep things going.

      • G Money

        He locked out in ’94, cancelled the season in 2005, and now this!?! Negotiate during the season! Dead puck era?! Headshots?! Empty arenas?!

        He’s had his chance to win my heart, im ready to move on.

        A fire FIRE BETTMAN chant = music to my ears!

  • Graphic Comments

    It does not matter what Canadian clubs do , as there are plenty of additional fans that will pay when a settlement is done . The Canadian addiction . Same cannot be said of U.S. based teams , however . Bettman lockout this time could hold many disappointments , and loss in team and league revenues for a forseable length of time considering the spinoff elements effected . Their market is bigger than they can accommodate in a lot of areas but dwindling none the less as more decide to use monies elsewhere for entertainment . Not like hockey is that big in States to begin with , considering other major sports they prefer with interest .

    The ” show must go on” despite lack of a ratified ageement , simply because the old one in effect was/is working , and it just takes the owners to correct their own indiscretions – not the players fault nor should they be the ones to pay to have to fix it and keep them inline .

  • Graphic Comments

    As much as your right, im sure the last thing the owners want is the play-by-play announcers being drowned out by chants about their commissioner during a national broadcast. Plus it would be just as fun as making fun of him!

  • Reidja

    I completely agree with this thesis. Not only for my sanity but also because I am trying to personally come to terms with a world without hockey…

    I know, I know, I keep reading FlamesNation everyday, was raised by Ed Whalen and all that… but I am toying with the thought of placing my disposable sports income elsewhere. I am building-up my hockey apathy bit by bit.

    Up with apathy!

  • vetinari

    To borrow a turn-of-phrase from baseball, given that this is likely to be Bettman’s third strike, is he out? [Don’t bother answering that question: I know the owners love him]

    I think the only way that there will be hockey before December is for the PA to come out and say, “if no deal is done by the end of November, all our players will go oversees and not reopen negotiations with you until next June”.

    The other alternative would be for the players to decertify, make all unsigned players and prospects UFA’s, and form a WHA style league… THAT would get the oner’s attention.