Monday, January 7, 2013

NHL Fans Welcome Baaaaaaack the Game

During the NHL lockout, I posted encouraging fans to speak with their wallets when the dispute was finally settled. This past weekend the parties finally realized that they are better off playing hockey and generating revenue than yelling at each other across a table. It didn't take fans long to make their own views known as they flocked to social media to either welcome back the NHL or profess a complete lack of interest in the upcoming season. By a rough estimate based on my own feeds, I'd say over 2/3 of fans are actually looking forward to the 48-game slate. I am disappointed but not surprised by this, hockey fans have always been sheep (hence the title of this post). I had hoped that they would realize that supporting the NHL rewards the owners and players who care nothing about them. Instead, they are behaving as jilted lovers welcomed back by a cheating, abusive spouse who promises it will never happen again.

To be fair, there have been a couple of interesting arguments for supporting the NHL despite the league cancelling 16.8% of regular season games since 2004. One is to forgive and forget. If you love hockey, you have to deal with the fact that the NHL operating model is broken. Accept labour stoppages every few years and when the games begin anew, you can return with a clear conscience. This argument is tough to fight because it is not based on emotion but a simple realization of the powerless position of the fan. It seems like most enthusiasts are following this way of thinking, not even bothering to understand the economics behind the dispute.

The other argument I heard was that by supporting the NHL, you are also helping the businesses and arena workers who have been hurt the most by the lockout. This point is not nearly as robust simply because you can support those businesses regardless if there is a game or not and you can help those workers too if you are so inclined. Giving $200 to the owners so you can also give $50 dollars to a restaurant near the arena seems a rather backward way of approaching things. Just go the restaurant and spend $100 instead.

For me, I am not angry or hateful towards the league; I feel that I am behaving as a smart consumer. Much like you would stop going to a restaurant that routinely brought the wrong order and ignored your complaints, I'm stopping spending money on NHL games. That doesn't mean I won't go, there are still three stadiums I need to visit, but I will do so without a penny going to the owners. I've also canceled my Game Center Live subscription so the NHL will see not a dime from me for the next couple of years. Of course, living in Singapore makes this very easy to do.

Regardless of your location, I encourage other NHL fans to make a similar statement. Those with season tickets are not going to cancel, likely seeing themselves as fortunate to see a 42% reduction in their annual bill, making it far easier to condone the continuation. Yes, your money goes to the deplorable owners but you can still stop buying concessions and merchandise and cease contributing to other assorted sources of revenue. For those who attend occasionally, consider abstaining for this season at least. Only by showing the owners and players that we can reduce their salaries by withholding revenue can we ensure that the same stupid process doesn't repeat itself eight years hence.



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