By Jason Menard
So the NHL and the NHLPA have decided that since they can’t share the big ball of wealth that they’ve got to play with, they’re simply going to pack up and go home.
Everybody who is passionate about the sport seems to have an opinion about who’s to blame in this mess. There are those railing on about the greedy players and others talking about the mismanagement of the owners. And then the common refrain is heard, “The only one’s who are really suffering are the fans!”
Ah, but the fans are not as innocent as they have been portrayed. In fact, the fans are probably as much to blame – if not more – than either the owners or the players for this mess. The fact of the matter is that, despite increased ticket prices, indifferent treatment by both players and owners alike, a poorer quality game, and exorbitant rates for everything from parking to souvenirs to refreshments at an arena, the fans continued to go to the games, drop their hard-earned coin, and pay these salaries.
We, the fans, have become enablers for the very activity we despise. I’ve been asked by many non-hockey fans why teams charge so much for (insert item here: tickets, apparel, beer), and my simple answer has always been, “Because they can.” They’re simply charging what the market will bear and, unfortunately, the market’s been willing to bear too much.
I’m no economist, but I know that if someone was willing to pay me a million bucks to write a column, I’d be typing so fast my fingers would bleed! The word no would be out of my vocabulary for a while, in this case. So why do we begrudge the owners for charging top dollar for what’s essentially junk?
People across this great nation of ours lament the poor quality hockey to which we’re subjected. Their love of hockey is more rooted in the past than any sort of present. But still, instead of showing their dissatisfaction, they continue to flock like lemmings to the Air Canada Centre, the Bell Centre, or any other steel and glass hockey shrine (usually one that’s been funded by taxpayer dollars.)
There’s a lot of talk about the lack of fan interest for the southern US teams. But can this really all be attributed to a lack of interest? I think we should actually be proud of those fans who aren’t allowing themselves to be ripped off! They’re putting their money where their mouths are. Why pay for a product that’s inferior?
We’re the ones that are held hostage by our passion for hockey. You wouldn’t think twice about not going to a restaurant that charged you top dollar for poor quality food, but asking you to give up those cherished season’s tickets is akin to asking you to give up your first born! It’s only those of us in the “traditional” (which I believe is a euphemism for gullible) hockey markets who chose to ignore the product, the service, and the entertainment value, and shell out more and more of our hard-earned money each year. Maybe the time has come to look at our collective ravenous appetite for hockey and temper it with some common sense.
Now that the NHL is gone, hopefully these same people that are outraged by the owners’ and players’ actions will now support other options like Junior and University hockey. The excitement is building for the Memorial Cup. Fan support of the Knights has never been higher and this should happen right across this great land of ours. True hockey fans should stop worrying about what they’re missing, and discover what they’ve missed for all these years. Junior Hockey (or AHL, or any number of leagues) provides entertaining hockey at a fraction of the cost.
Support these leagues, and even after the NHL comes back with their empty apologies and hollow statements of love, continue to support them. We live in a market-driven society. When we stop paying the prices that these teams demand and, instead, give our money to a more affordable option, then the NHL will get the point.
Then ticket prices may start coming down. Then a beer may not cost you a second mortgage. Then maybe we’ll be as smart as those fans in the Southern U.S.
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