Hockey has always prided itself on the knowledge and passion of their fans. We go to games, we buy the gear, we cheer on the boys. During practice, we cheer on a goal or a great save by the goalie. During the playoff push last season, the fans stood and applauded after Boyd Gordon sacrificed his body to block two blasts from the point while on the penalty kill. We went to the airport at midnight to welcome the team charter in after securing the first division title in team history.
Parents will sit in a cold arena watching their kids at Learn To Skate until they graduate to house league or travel. Parents will be up at 5am to get their skater to the rink for the 6am travel team practice. They will spend thousands of dollars per year on equipment, lessons, league fees, and other costs so their children can play the game they so love. High School hockey games are so raucous that opposing team fans claim their side of the bleachers. The parents are growing the next generation of the game. And after the little players are tucked safely into the beds, many parents load their bags into the car and head back to the rink for their beer league game. All roads lead to beer league. Go to the Ice Den on a Monday night and count the former NHL players in the A league game. You never saw Don Mattingly out there shagging fly balls with other former Devil Rays five years after his playing career ended. But you can see Jeremy Roenick out there carrying the puck up and down the ice.
This kind of passion we exhibit toward the game is unmatched. That is why is so disheartening to see the current state of the NHL. The following is from NESN (New England Sports Network).
According to Level5 Strategy Group, the level of passion amongst hockey fans has suffered a serious decline since the beginning of the lockout, a fact which might translate into trouble for teams once hockey gets going again. The NHL is even compared to British Petroleum (BP) in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
When you have a small but rabid group of fans who now compare you to the Deep Horizon oil rig explosion and BP, the league is in serious trouble. Professional sport leagues depend of television contracts and fan support at the arena to generate revenue. The NHL needs ticket sales to turn a profit. Unlike the other professional sports in America, the television broadcast deals are not so lucrative that the teams start out with positive cash flow. So now you damper that fan enthusiasm with prolonged labor negotiations that no one is “winning,” all the fans see are losers. And no one likes to be a loser.
We feel that our support of the professional game is assumed. That we will continue to spend two hundred dollars every time a family of four wants to attend a game. Of course we’ll buy another jersey. Selling mystery pucks for Coyotes charities, I’ll take two. Those days are over for most fans. Put aside the state of the economy that prevents most of us from going to as many games as we like. The past few months have put our discretionary spending dollars toward other uses. Saving money and paying off other items is a good feeling. I’m surviving without thousands spent on the NHL. The NHL now has to fight with the Arizona Sun Dogs and the number #1 ranked Arizona State Sun Devil Men’s Hockey D1 team for my money and attention.
If the NHL cannot get games this season, the league will be doomed. NBC Sports will renegotiate the television contracts, and it will be a huge loss for the league. Those fourth line players we love will be competing against kids drafter in 2011, 2012, and 2013 for roster positions. Teams will be looking to slash payroll to meet the lowered amount of funds they have. Fans will not see their favorite usher or security staff at the arena. They had to go out and find other jobs to make their living expenses.
We live in a world of change. It has always been comforting to have sports to fall back on as our safe area. The big three (except baseball) have shown a disregard for their fanbase.
For the entire story on the Level5 results, read more at: http://nesn.com/2012/12/nhls-slide-in-popularity-compared-to-bp-after-gulf-oil-spill-video/