The precedent the NHL has set for lockouts is a huge problem and a lot of people are losing out because of it. Yes, players and owners are losing money but they are the ones in control right now. They are the ones that can put a stop to the lockout. With so much focus on the NHLPA and the NHL, it begs the question, who is losing the most because of this lockout? Here are a couple I came up with (in no particular order) and please feel free to add some that you think I missed in the comment section below.
The Fans – I think this one is obvious. As fans, we wake up every morning and log on to our favorite sports website to find that the lockout hasn’t been resolved. Even when talks seem to be going well, they come to an abrupt halt with either the owners or players talking about how they were “deeply offended” by the other side. We are powerless and for a lot of us, we don’t have any other hockey options. So there we are, sitting, waiting, wishing for a season to begin. (Did I get the song in your head? If not, here you go…) The big question I have, which I really can’t answer, is this: if you are a season ticket holder and the ultimate outcome of this is the cancelation of yet another season, do you go back? I’m not a season ticket holder but if I was, I would have a hard time giving that much money over to a league that doesn’t really seem to appreciate the fans. The NHL would really have to do something for me to make me want to give them that kind of money. Personally, I’d take the cash, buy a bigger flat screen and watch in the comfort of my own home. Yes, they get money from me watching but I’d have a bigger TV for other things as well.
Older Players – Yes, they are players and have some say in what is going on but it seems that some players want to take what the NHL is offering and some don’t, so they aren’t in complete control. All I know is that there are a number of players in this league that are very near retirement. After the 2004/2005 lockout, guys like Mark Messier, Scott Stevens, Al MacInnis, Adam Oates and Ron Francis never got to return to the ice. These were guys that left a huge mark on the game and they just faded away from the NHL. No swan song, no farewell tour and most importantly, no victory lap. If we lose this season, which older players have we seen play their last NHL game and did so without knowing it was their final game? Daniel Alfredsson, Teemu Selanne, (gulp) Marty Brodeur? Let’s hope we get all these guys a victory lap.
Small business with ties to the NHL – On game night, I invite you to take a stroll around Newark (don’t worry, it’s safe.) Take a moment and realize the amount of bars and restaurants are packed both before and after a game. I haven’t seen the numbers for Newark but this doesn’t only happen in Newark. This happens near every arena in the NHL. In one city, I read of a bar losing between $60,000-$80,000 a month. Millionaire league owners and players fight over hockey related revenue, escrow, and make whole while at the same time putting Mr. Joe Schmo Hockey Man out of business. I doubt people are making the trip to Newark to go drinking in some bar if they aren’t in town to watch a hockey game.
- State of Michigan – While I am not a fan of the Winter Classic, there is no denying that it brings in some decent money for the hosting city. This year’s Winter Classic seemed like it was going to be done on a much larger scale which probably meant even more money for the state of Micigan / city of Detroit. Michigan was to play host to the Winter Classic this year but watched that cash cow get pulled from underneath them. It would have been cool to see the NHL play a game in the Big House, which maybe they will do someday but as for this year, it was cancelled back in October.
- The Minnesota Wild – As much as this one pains me to talk about, the lockout definitely hurts them. The Wild made potentially the move of the year with the off-season pick up of free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. No doubt Minnesota paid a ridiculous amount of money to do this, but there was a palpable excitement in the air, which Minnesota hasn’t seen in a long time. According to USA Today, “They have sold the equivalent of about 4,000 new season tickets since the day the 13-year, $98 million contracts for Parise and Suter were revealed, signaling the most-anticipated season in the franchise’s 12-year history. Thanks to the NHL lockout, though, the mute button has been pushed on the buzz and begs the question, will the casual fan that just bought their first set of season tickets because they bought into the buzz just opt to get their money back and forget about the NHL. If you are a casual fan, the message that fans don’t matter must be a lot louder and clearer than it is for the hardcore fan.