By Jason Menard,
It’s a day of mixed emotions for many NHL fans — they’re thrilled the league has resolved its differences and brought the lockout to an end, but they’re equally angry at both the owners and the players for depriving them of their game — and they don’t know how to react.
The answer? Fans just have to remember, this wasn’t personal — it’s just business.
And for the future of the league, fans are going to have to start applying that business mentality to their future interactions with the game.
Fans have taken to coffee shops and social media to vent their frustration at how they’ve been ignored throughout this process. They feel they’ve been used as pawns in a battle that they’ve wanted no part of. And some are suggesting that they will not be watching games at all this year.
But that’s just reactionary and emotional — and it’s inconsistent with our responses to other service providers.
Much of the same terminology (holding us hostage, using us as pawns), can be applied to both current and historical strikes and lockouts: teachers, postal workers, and municipal employees are just three examples. The same venom is spilled by people in newspapers and on social media, but I don’t see a rush of people pulling their kids out of school and homeschooling them in response; people still use the post; and I don’t know of many who choose to take their own trash to the dump as opposed to leaving it on the curb.
Strikes and lockouts are a part of doing business. What’s different for some fans is that they’ve deluded themselves into thinking that the NHL is not a business.
There’s a reason why the club is the Montreal Canadiens or the Toronto Maple Leafs as opposed to the Molson Canadiens or the BCE/Rogers Leafs — the owners and league want you to form a more emotional bond with the team. It’s why fans say, “We’ve got a great team,” or “This is our year.” It’s why ads run that profess that hockey is “our game.”
It’s not. These teams are revenue-generators and marketing pieces of larger coprorations. In most cities, winning is just good business; in some cities (and I’m looking at you Toronto) winning is a nice benefit, but not vital to the bottom line.
Fans will be back and that’s their prerogative. They should be allowed to enjoy the product without guilt.
But if anything should change, it’s their expectations. The owners and players treat this as a business — so too should the fans.
Look at the value on your dollar. If your official team replica jersey is too expensive, then don’t buy it; if you don’t feel ownership is spending appropriately to build a competitive team, then don’t pay the ticket prices; and if you think those concession prices are too high, remember that it’s a business decision whether to purchase and patronise these establishments. Take your entertainment dollars elsewhere (and, if you have to watch hockey, might I suggest the junior ranks?)
If anything, that what was lost in this lockout. The last vestiges that the NHL was anything more than merely a business are long gone.
This isn’t “our game” any more than it’s “our restaurant,” “our TV show,” or “our movie.”
After all, it’s just business.