Leafs Nation Roundtable

Since the lockout started in September I’ve been reading a lot of "I won’t support the NHL after this" from otherwise loyal fans. There have been protests in the form of videos, articles, tweets, and even old-fashioned "takin’ it to the streets" like those 12 people in Toronto did.

A lot of folks have said that they’ll keep their money out of the NHL’s hands one way or another when it does return. Whether that means ditching season tickets, or even something as simple as not buying merchandise for a year or two, people want to take a cut out of the league’s pocket the way they took a cut out of hockey fans’ winter.

From: Ryan Fancey

To: Gus, Steve, Cam

I was just wondering if, given that we’ll likely see some sort of abbreviated season (64 games or so), will you immediately go back to fully supporting the NHL the way you used to? That may mean going to NHL games, buying jerseys, buying Centre Ice or GameCenter, watching every game that’s on cable television, whatever it is that you normally do. Or, are you going to cut down your support as sort of an "eff you" or punishment to the league for shutting fans out this long? I know a few people have mentioned staying away from live games and not buying merch, which I think is totally reasonable and I respect it. As for myself, admittedly, I’ll probably drink to celebrate the lockout being over, count down the days until the opening game, and somewhere in the middle of that book a flight to Toronto for some game after Christmas.

From Cam:

I’m in a bit of an awkward position because I really depend on the NHL for a payday, right?

Like, I can say that if I were only a "fan" of the game, I’d probably be content with watching basketball and junior hockey all winter, because I’m content doing that right now. I don’t particularly miss the NHL, although it is hard to come up with decent things to write about. Sean McIndoe basically said on Twitter a few weeks ago that he’s in a similar position. Doing this "job" which involves finding daily storylines and things to write about prevents me from enjoying the NBA or the NFL seasons at full capacity, which is a bit taxing.
I’m noticing on Twitter, a lot more people are less content to say "eff you @NHL, I’m watching @NBA" as they are just talking about the NBA. It certainly doesn’t help the NHL that baseball had a pretty good playoffs and, when they do come back, they’re going to be competing right up against college football bowl season and NFL football playoff races. None of these get high ratings in Canada, but I think the die-hard sports fans that keep up with blogs daily are finding more ways to be entertained. The state of broadcast technology makes finding live hockey less dire to us.

I think the NHL and the Leafs should be pretty concerned with this trend. But that’s just anecdotal.

From Steve:

I’m in Cam’s boat. I cover hockey for a living, so to say "Ah screw the NHL!" just isn’t going to happen coming from me.

I tell you what though – I haven’t bought anything as a fan for a while. Not hats, no more sweaters, no more jerseys. I have some obviously, but I get them as gifts. I’ve even told my family not to bother getting me NHL stuff. I already have enough, and at the moment, why would I want any? I still like stuff like hockey cards and collectible figurines, but I like them when they’re attached to a sentimental feeling. I have a Leafs Lanny McDonald figure, Oilers Grant Fuhr figure, and an Yvan Cournoyer figure, but that’s because I got to talk to them, not because of the teams they played for.

Right now, I’m working doing highlights for the KHL. If the NHL comes back tomorrow, I will still be doing KHL highlights. My hope is I’ll be lucky enough to cover both. I’m ready whenever the NHL decides they’re ready

From Gus:

This lockout hasn’t really interrupted my workflow so it’s business as usual, with actually less responsibility in a strange way. There is a partial drawback in that sometimes I feel in an attempt to make calls on whether prospects are close to the NHL or ready to graduate, the best way to gauge that is to watch the NHL club and identify the holes. Can this player oust someone from a roster spot? Can the team make a move to open up the roster for this player to graduate?

It’s hard to really appreciate the speed, pace and lightning quickness involved playing in the NHL, and in the absences of a gauge, I’m a bit apprehensive making player assessments this season than I have been in the past. Sometimes it’s clear cut. Nazem Kadri, Jake Gardiner etc. Other times, it’s a close call.

I’ll go back to getting Game Center and will keep on keeping on after the game returns.

I’m reminded of an episode of M*A*S*H where Hawkeye is asked in triage how long the wounded had to scream before requiring attention. It wasn’t the one’s that were screaming that needed the attention .. it was the one’s who couldn’t.

Everyone on twitter that is complaining about not supporting the NHL are all likely to do just that .. it’s not the vocal I’m concerned about. It’s the ones that aren’t screaming. Those, may be lost.

From Ryan (again):

For me, someone whose regular work life has nothing to do with hockey, it’s obviously different than the guys above. The league is relying on fans like me for a paycheque, not the other way around. Of course my contribution is ridiculously small when looking at the big picture: about 500 dollars in Leafs’ tickets, a subscription to Centre Ice, and a boatload of Molson and Tim Hortons’ commercials watched over the winter months. I’m not really big on buying jerseys, but I do have a cool Leafs scarf and a Phaneuf t-shirt. Either way, I’m putting money in to the NHL’s pockets, so I can choose not to.

I don’t really have an interesting reason why I’ll keep watching and supporting the NHL, I just will. Basically I just love NHL hockey too much and there’s no better feeling than flicking on the game after a shitty Thursday at work, or picking up beers on a Saturday and getting ready for Hockey Night in Canada. As for buying tickets to the games themselves, I don’t live in Toronto so I can’t really say I’m going to go to less games than usual. I can likely only go to one or two, so if I don’t do that it’s zero. And since I love going to sporting events, I’d like to get to as many as I can.

Don’t take any of this as "you should do the same and be a loyal NHL fan" because it isn’t about that. People feel cheated by the league, and in a sense they probably should. If they want to take their money or time elsewhere, I think that’s a great idea. I’m just admitting that I won’t.