NHL fans are tired of not being heard
December, 13, 2012
By Lynn Hoppes | ESPN.com
Twice a week, a group of hockey fans in Los Angeles get together to play a recreational game for a few hours.
In fact, each person pays money to rent the rink on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
"I love hockey enough to pay $20 twice a week to play. It's our favorite times of the week," actor Paddy Demsey said. "That's why I can't believe the pro hockey players and owners can't come together on an agreement. We actually want to pay to play, and those pros can't figure out about splitting the money. When is enough enough?"
The NHL and the NHL Players' Association met with a federal mediator on Wednesday but still remain in a stalemate in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. In all, the 526 lost games account for nearly 43 percent of the regular season that had been scheduled to begin Oct. 11. It's the third work stoppage in 18 years.
Even President Obama got in on the discussion, telling WCCO-TV in Minneapolis that owners and players "make a lot of money and you make a lot of money on the backs of the fans, so do right by your fans."
Demsey, who portrayed hockey legend Mike Eurizione in the 2004 film "Miracle," agreed.
"Without the fans, there wouldn't even be a sport," he said. "Our frustrations as fans is pretty high. That's all we talk about when we play."
The group, led by commercial director Steve Chase, decided to do something about their frustration. They got together and filmed a spot called "Just Drop It."
In the video, the players look straight at the camera and come up with a pledge:
"I pledge that for every game you take from me after December 21, I will refrain from attending any games, watching games on TV, and from buying any merchandise for the equivalent number of games after the lockout ends. You cancel one game. I'll take one from you. You take 20 from me. I'll skip the next 20."
Chase's goals are pretty simple. "We're not trying to hurt anybody," he said. "We just want hockey back."
Chase said the actors, musicians and public relations types in this group come from 20-30 miles away through Los Angeles traffic just to play the game they love.
Allison Joyce/Getty ImagesNHL has cancelled games through the end of this month. Will the whole season be wiped out?"Why can't the pros just get into a room and figure this out?" Chase said. "They are just fighting over profits, not fighting over something that is dying."
NHL revenues have grown by 50 percent over the past five years, to $3.4 billion, but 13 of its 30 franchises suffered losses last season, according to Forbes.
"The fans are the ones suffering," Chase said. "Don't they realize that we're the ones paying their salaries?"
That was one reason Jim Boone, who lives in Canada, created the National Hockey League Fans' Association in 1998.
"We wanted to give the fans collectively a voice," said Boone, whose group's membership is about 31,000. "In a perfect world, we'd have 100,000 fans and a voice at the real bargaining table. We essentially have one rink full of members. We want to have some clout to be able to influence the game for the better."
Boone, who has met with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman several times, has no problems with people wanting to show their frustration but he said there is no point.
In fact, he agrees with Bettman, who said this in August: "We recovered well last time because we have the world's greatest fans."
"I hate to admit that but he's right. All the huffing and puffing won't materialize into anything. There is no point for threats and boycotts," said Boone, whose group released a fans poll on Thursday. "But let's hope in a micro level there will be some cause and effect. Maybe instead of renewing season tickets, you might not get full game packages. Instead of buying two jerseys, you might buy one. It might take a couple of years but I think that there will be some impact."
Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesNHL commissioner Gary Bettman in the past few weeks has been showing his own frustration.
Landon Ewaniuk runs a hockey fan site and has been a fan his whole life.
The 24-year-old Ewaniuk, who has cerebral palsy, spent his nights in Canada watching games and writing about it on his website hockeyfanland.com, which has about 200,000 hits over the past couple of years.
"I've never been able to play the sport but I've spent my life watching the sport. I watch hockey religiously," Ewaniuk said. "I was always inspired by what went on the ice. And I wanted to create a website that connected fans around the world. I'm worried about the future of the game."
During the lockout, Ewaniuk has been filling his time with a substitute, playing hockey on Xbox Live.
But, just a few days ago, he posted this on his website:
"To make things worse, not only is there an NHL lockout, but my copy of 'NHL 13' stopped working the other day..."