Dear NHL fans:
The NHL season is returning! After 113 days the NHL and NHLPA have come to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement. Scream and shout until your voice is sore, let your feelings of relief and happiness shoot to the skies, and hug your friends and family. Once you have let your bottled-up feelings of jubilation subside take a look back at the entire lockout and reflect on how the fans were treated. Realize that the fans were not even a minor thought during the entire lockout. The past 113 days were a flagrant display of disrespect toward loyal hockey fans.
Four lockouts in two decades shows a clear disregard for the game of hockey and its devoted fans. When hockey returned after the 2004-2005 lockout all of the fans returned in droves. The NHL gave us new rules and the tantalizing lure of the shootout after that lockout (and luckily for NHL the first game back went to a shootout). But after this lockout the only attraction for fans to return to hockey is that they will finally be able to watch their beloved game that they missed so dearly over the past four months. But why should the fans return to the stadiums in mass numbers when the NHL and NHLPA clearly don’t show as much passion and love for the game as the fans?
I can’t wait to hear the sound of the crunching ice underneath the metal skates, the combination of beauty and brutality in a well-timed hit, and the simple roar of the crowd after a perfectly placed goal in overtime to give your team the win. This is passion and love for the game that every hockey fan shares within their heart. But it appears after four lockouts in 20 years that owners and players no longer share this passion. The owners and players now appear to only care about the numbers of the game. And, if they are willing to sacrifice games and seasons over money problems, why should fans simply sit idly by and wait for owners and players to solve their “issues” and then be expected to return to the game that was sacrificed without any thought for the fans?
Four lockouts in 20 years is enough the fans need to respond, and respond with a message that resonates throughout the National Hockey League. The fans have been treated like an old lover that will always return no matter how they are treated. But at some point the fans have to make a stand a show that they are no longer going to return to our game without consequence.
After the 1994 Major League Baseball season was cancelled the MLB fans returned to the game the next year, but they returned with actions that send the MLB a message. Attendance declined, fans booed the players and owners, made protest signs and T-shirts, and in one case some fans ran out onto the field and threw one-dollar bills in the players’ faces. Imagine a fan jumping over the glass during the first face-off of a game and throwing money at the players and coaches. Now that would send a message. And on an even bigger scale imagine empty arenas on the first game back. These actions would show the NHL that the fans are no longer going to put up with these negotiations that abolish cherished hockey games.
So, for the first game back make protest signs, boo the players and owners, don’t watch the game, or don’t even attend the game. Do something that will show that the fans are angry with the NHL and have had enough of the lockouts that take away the game we love so much. Don’t be a mindless fan and simply return to hockey without reflecting on how you have been treated over the past 113 days, and also the last 20 years.
The fans are the ones losing the most when a lockout hits, the fans are the ones who now show more passion for the game, and the fans are the ones that keep NHL teams alive (disagree? Look at Atlanta, Quebec, Hartford, et cetera). Be a true fan and show the NHL that their actions have consequences.