I submit to you a thesis: that the consumer of NHL hockey does not sit at the powerless nexus between billionaire owners and millionaire players in their fight to divide a $3.3 billion pie but, in fact, has agency.
That agency is his or her almighty dollar, the many billions of which these owners and players are fighting over, after all. And though we might feel powerless in this situation, the one decision that no person or corporation can take from us, no matter how influential they are, is the decision to leave our wallets in our back pockets.
Because let’s face it: we’re being taken for granted here. And it’s far more egregious than how Canadian hockey fans feel taken for granted when their dollars are used to subsidize expansion into non-traditional markets. There is a tacit assumption on the part of ownership that the fans will come back. There will be no fiscal penalty, relatively speaking, for taking away something that we love. We’ve come back before.
It’s tempting to take sides, particularly against the owners. Their bull-headed position is matched only by their willingness to fire staff or cut back their hours and pay, and the inevitability of even higher ticket prices should they succeed in maximizing their profit. Their arrogance seems all the more despicable for the very public way in which it’s dissected by a hockey starved sports media. But taking sides is nothing but semantics for any hockey consumer who doesn’t happen to have a pulpit from which to speak about labor issues. You can buy a ticket because you like the players, the owners, the ice girls, or the popcorn. But you only have one type of almighty dollar to spend and no matter why you spend it, that dollar ends up in the same place.
Which is why I propose not spending it. Somewhere in league offices there is probably an algorithm that demonstrates the degree to which the owners can risk good consumer relations against what they stand to gain in a labor dispute. And the only way to speak to them in their language is to demonstrate that their decision to deny hockey fans hockey has repercussions.
If the league comes back to play a truncated season, it will be tempting to watch. But how can I, after experiencing yet another lockout, send that signal to Bettman and the owners? Why would I rush out to buy another season ticket package or jersey? Why would I celebrate a team’s deep prospect pool, an unexpected playoff appearance, a gritty performance, or the glory of a championship? Why would I become reinvested when the owners are so quick to take it away?
Boycotting and staying away for a prolonged period of time—and, just as importantly, letting management know through a written letter campaign—is the only way to send a message to this league that they can’t take hockey fans for granted.
That’s why I humbly propose the following pledge:
If a single game is lost from the 2012-2013 NHL season, I pledge not to watch any NHL hockey for the duration of said season if and when hockey returns. I will buy no tickets or merchandise for my home team or any other team. I will not watch NHL hockey or related shows on television. I will not listen to NHL hockey or related shows on the radio. I do this to send a message to NHL ownership that we, as consumers, demand respect. If you deny us this game that we so love, we will deny you our dollars.
Slacktivism, amigo. Remember the gathering to support Spezza? Internet petitions have the same amount of power as, um, I don’t know, the Senators’ power play without Karlsson.
For me this is more about a community coming together to demonstrate a bit of solidarity around an idea. I don’t think Bettman will find out a couple hundred people signed an online petition and be like “I can’t take it!” But hockey blogging has a nice, grass roots thing going on here, and it’s nice not to feel utterly powerless in this situation. But of course not trying to pressure you into signing, or anything. Totally respect your right to pass.
Also, signing takes about as long as writing about how petitions are not useful.
Signed it……Loved it…..Had good feelings……. It is nice to bitch on a petition and not feel powerless as mentioned; despite this more than likely not going anywhere. Hats off for the blog. It truly put into words how most fans feel.
Oh, I signed it. I just don’t believe it will have any effect. These things never do, but I would still like to voice my displeasure towards the whole situation any way I can.
I appreciate that everyone is frustrated about the lack of progress with the work stoppage/lockout, but I think the idea of a boycott is inherently flawed. You’re always going to have trouble with fan-solidarity on a boycott; some people just love hockey and will come back no matter what (see: Leafs fans).After we’ve all suffered from the loss of however many games are cancelled you now want to further flog yourself once hockey is back? I also think the focus shouldn’t just be on the owners’ but on both groups equally.
I don’t fault for the owners for wanting their business to fall in line with the NFL and NBA to get their player costs down to 50% of the league revenue. Nor do I find any fault in the outrage the players are feeling when staring at another salary roll-back without any meaning changes in place to fix the systemic problems that will lead to another roll-back when the next CBA ends. But there is a deal to be made here – and it’s the men in charge that have brought us to this point with their posturing, PR spinning and ego’s will lead to games being lost; this is the fact that must be rectified or we’re doomed to have work-stoppages every 4-5 years.
I think a more worthwhile change is to start a new ‘conversation’ within the media that the role of the Commissioner should be as a steward of the game, not a puppet/mouth-piece for the owners. I’ve been on a soap-box to anyone who will listen that the Commissioner should be paid equally by the NHL owners and the NHLPA and as such would be beholden to neither, but instead would have the best interests of the game at heart. Duties would be league discipline, rule changes, etc as well as acting as a mediator during CBA negotiations and keep them moving along to ensure that we can have some labour peace long-term.
Truthfully this idea would likely have the same effect as a petition (read: none) but from a fan’s perspective it’s one that’s alot more plausible given the reality that people will not stay away once hockey returns.
All reasonable points, though I think it’s a bit fatalistic to think that we can’t help ourselves from consuming a product after being cynically positioned by two groups trying to gain advantage over one another. What constitutes a greater self-flogging? To deny oneself access to hockey, or to have someone else periodically deny you access to it? It’s a personal choice, of course, but I know that I feel manipulated, because my love of the game is being manipulated. If this was one labor negotiation, fine. But it’s the third in Bettman’s tenure. It’s time to say that this kind of negotiating tactic is simply not cool.
The idea of starting a conversation in the media is an intriguing one, though, as you point out, not without its own flaws (e.g. expecting the media, who are dependent on access to a product, to then push an uncomfortable discussion with the owners of said product; speaking a language that resonates with billionaire owners less than impact on the bottom line). But there’s room for that solution with this petition. You’ll notice it’s asking to simply ‘end the lockout.’ What you propose could be the way it happens.
Ultimately, I think we’re railing against the same thing. I’m in favor of unions, and proper labor negotiations, and workers’ rights, and the rights of owners to maximize their investment. What I’m frustrated with is being used as a pawn in a negotiation, and this petition is about saying hey, you know, we have some power here too, and we’re not afraid to use it.
Not that we can’t stop ourselves, just that we won’t (as history has proven after multiple work stoppages of multiple sports). I also feel the manipulation from both sides with owners playing the ‘well they came back last time’ card and the players trotting out the ‘but we’re just employees like Joe Schmoe’ – both are laughable.
I agree that we’re both on the same side of this; wanting hockey back and long-term so we aren’t faced with this threat of/reality of losing hockey games every time a CBA ends. Maybe at the end of the day it’s not necessarily about what method you choose to voice your displeasure just so long as you are vocal about it.
We all want the same thing, how to get there is the challenge.
My brain says yes, my heart says no…. anyhow, is there anyway we could amend the petition to phrase it along the lines of “for every game missed due to the lockout, I will refuse to watch one that is played”? (It helps that I have a class on Thursday that nicely coincides with the Sens’ usual game time. If the players and owners can be selfish dicks, than so can I.)
Won’t sign but the petition but also won’t attend games for a period following the lockout.
If the lockout lasts more than a year then will encourage others to cancel season tickets as well.
About the Spezza rally, I talked about that to friends, we all laughed at the idea of rallying around Spezza (or any skilled guy on our team for that matter) and copied his giggle for a few minutes before going back to complaining about everything.
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