It's nice to be loved, isn't it? All of a sudden, hockey fans are the center of PR messages from the league and spiffy videos from the NHLPA (featuring David Backes!) explaining why people won't be going to any pre-season games this month, or NHL hockey games in general for quite some time.
I feel loved now, don't you? I mean, these guys are fighting for their paychecks, and they're still thinking of us.
How about the NHL? Pretty video for the fans? No. But we do get this spiffy press release from NHL.com:
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.
Thanks to the conditions fostered by seven seasons under the previous CBA, competitive balance has created arguably the most meaningful regular season in pro sports; a different team has won the Stanley Cup every year; fans and sponsors have agreed the game is at its best, and the League has generated remarkable growth and momentum. While our last CBA negotiation resulted in a seismic change in the League's economic system, and produced corresponding on-ice benefits, our current negotiation is focused on a fairer and more sustainable division of revenues with the Players -- as well as other necessary adjustments consistent with the objectives of the economic system we developed jointly with the NHL Players' Association seven years ago. Those adjustments are attainable through sensible, focused negotiation -- not through rhetoric.
This is a time of year for all attention to be focused on the ice, not on a meeting room. The League, the Clubs and the Players all have a stake in resolving our bargaining issues appropriately and getting the puck dropped as soon as possible. We owe it to each other, to the game and, most of all, to the fans.
Well, gosh. If the players would just hop on board the ol' peace train, everything could be solved and we'll all be watching hockey on opening night while rainbows fly out of Gary Bettman's ass. Brilliance! But gosh, I don't know. Which side really cares more about me? Which side can I influence with petitions and YouTube videos coupled with a Twitter campaign?
Uh, neither. I know that in today's age of social media, we all feel like changing the world is easier than ever. And in some cases, it is. Broadcasting what's going on in the world can lead to massive social and governmental change -- look at last year's Arab Spring. But that's government. And that's totally different. Gary Bettman is not Quadaffi. He is the representative of a group of owners for a business. Owners who each are worth millions at the very least. Owners that just raked in over $3 billion last season.
Businesses don't care what your personal opinions are, or if a group of 20 of you picket their flagship retail store. If you have a niche product with an absurdly dedicated fanbase, and if you're the only main quality producer of said product, you know they'll be back. The money you save'll balance out what's lost from protest and a loss season, and you'll start raking it in when the gates open up again. Fans got pissed off when Gary Bettman said as much, but he was right. With the exception of a few folks, we'll all be back. We'll satisfy our need for the sport that we love with the AHL, ECHL, and KHL, but that's not the same. Hell, former Thrashers goaltender Michael Garnett is leading the KHL in GAA right now. Is this the quality of hockey we want to substitute in place of NHL games? Let's be realistic here.
We'll be back, the owners have no incentive to care if a few folks don't return, and the players are (rightfully) concerned with their own pocketbooks. I agree with David Backes here 100%, but as a fan there is nothing that I can do other than sit and wait for the owners to start playing nice. People can be an action of change when something matters enough, but this is pro sports. It's a business. We're just along for the ride.