One of the worst possible fears of an NHL fan has been realized – the lockout has begun. For the third time in less than twenty years, the NHL has shut it’s doors and, with the pre-season games due to start within the next week and a half and the actual season to start on October 12th, there appears to be no resolution in sight.
But in this war of Players vs. Owners, Millionaires vs. Billionaires, who is really going to lose?
Not the owners or the players – both of who would be able to easily find alternative ways to spend the season (players by going to Europe, owners by focusing on their other ventures), but rather the fans. The fans who, supposedly, the NHL cares ever so much about.
The fans who have already been laid off – or are starting to be laid off – because of the lack of foreseeable revenue or even available work in their hockey related jobs. The bartenders, the souvenir vendors, the taxi drivers, the waiters and waitresses, the parking attendants – just to name a few examples of those who may be in trouble with the upcoming lack of hockey nights. The layoffs have already commenced from within the NHL, with the Florida Panthers and Ottawa Senators already beginning to let staff go or reduce shifts.
As the lockout came into effect, the NHL released a statement that seemed to make things worse – just making the fans angrier. The statement, which is less than 250 words, puts so much emphasis on how it is important that the puck gets dropped as soon as possible; how they are trying to committed to trying to make sure the season starts on time for the fan’s sake and how much the fans mattered – most importantly, how at this point in the year, they should be on the ice rather than in the boardroom. Surely, at this point, Gary Bettman could do better than this. Since he took over as Commissioner of the NHL in 1993, three lockouts. He must have had at least some level of practice writing these things by now. To say that they are trying to speed up the process to reach an agreement as soon as possible is essentially laughable. These meetings have supposedly been going on since the 29th of June, with both sides knowing the expiration date. If they were so committed to bringing hockey to the fans on time – or at least half as committed as both sides are claiming to be – then they would have managed it. Instead, both sides have dug their heels in and stubbornly refused to work together.
Of course both sides are releasing statements placing the blame on the other; nobody wants to take 100% of the blame in regards to something that will put so many people out of work and upset one of the biggest leagues in North America. At this point, however, a bit more of the blame appears to lie with the NHL rather than the players – even with the deadline looming, they reportedly refused to meet with the players. The players reportedly were requesting meetings up until the deadline on the 15th of September – the NHL’s response? That a meeting that late would not make a difference and the owners, instead of doing something actually productive, chose to shut their doors. While could be easy enough to argue that they may have had a point – that no agreement would have been able to be reached so close to the wire – what is the excuse for the lack of progress for the two and a half months before the deadline? If the NHL feels that they owe it to the fans to get hockey back on the ice as soon as possible and that this time of year is for the ice rather than the boardroom – where have they been all summer? How has it even gotten to this point?
As a lot of people who work in hockey season dependant fields are preparing to weather the storm of the lockout, there appears to be a mixed reaction to the lockout. – with more people leaning towards just forgetting about the 2012-2013 season. According to a poll on TSN, 52.3% of voters believe that the season will be scrapped. On the message boards there appears to be a feeling of a sort of abandonment, with many feeling that the fans have been given up on by the teams – that they are nowhere near as valued by the teams as the NHL tries to insinuate.
So, as the doors are locked up – potentially until the end of the season – the question remains: where do the fans go now?