It’s been a long, long time since I’ve written anything on this blog. In fact, the last post I wrote, on September 20th, was a petition vowing that if any games were cancelled that I wouldn’t watch any hockey for the rest of the season. Since that time I’ve had just about no desire to contemplate our situation as hockey fans, and no interest in covering the ongoing non-event that is this lockout.
The reaction to that petition was predictable and fair. Most seemed to appreciate the sentiment–that only by withholding our dollars can we actually communicate with owners and/or players–but admitted that they would eat hockey up if and when it returned. I’m missing hockey something fierce; I don’t begrudge anyone the opportunity to watch the Sens play again. But I thought it only right to follow up on whether or not my position has changed over the last month plus…
Nope. The owners have cynically positioned the fans, leveraging our passion for the sport in a fight to undermine player rights. They’ve irreparably set the sport back at least a year or two after what had been years of record growth and some of the best hockey in years. My sense is still one of deep resentment. If any other company or brand, selling me any other product, so fragrantly took me for granted in this way I would never go back to them.
Now, I’m not saying that I’m never going to watch hockey again. And I have to acknowledge that Melnyk doesn’t seem to be one of the hardliners among the ownership cadre driving this thing. But I simply can’t go back to the way things were and pretend that this level of greed is a normal and cyclical thing in the overall scheme of CBA negotiations.
So what were my plans for 2012-2013? Well, after a surprisingly competitive season last year, I planned to consume Ottawa Senators hockey to about the same degree as any fan who bothers to write about hockey on his own blog. Which is to say that I was going to watch every game at least on TV, attend between a half-dozen and dozen home games, go to as many playoff games as I can, buy some merch, and drink a shit-ton of $11 beers at Scotiabank Place. I don’t spend like a madman when it comes to hockey. But I’m part of the gristle that makes hockey profitable in this city. If I was a die-hard with season tickets and a version of every jersey, then peeling back a little doesn’t make that much difference; I’d still be spending like mad. Instead, I’m the kind of consumer who had built hockey into my routine. What any lockout demonstrates to the consumer like me is that I don’t need hockey in my life that badly.
When there are this many companies willing to bend over backward for my entertainment buck I can’t go back to hockey spending. I won’t be going to any home games if and when hockey is back, not even playoff games. I won’t buy any merch, like jerseys or t-shirts. (Not even that Ottawa Senators Dream Capture Kit.) I won’t spend any money on arena food or beer.
So, why would I punish our small market team? Well, I’m on record (here and here) thinking that Melnyk has a habit of stretching the truth when it comes to describing the challenges of breaking even. And I can’t ignore that Daniel Alfredsson is re-considering his plans to play another year, and that we’re losing a year of Erik Karlsson and Jason Spezza in their prime. Hockey, and Ottawa Senators hockey specifically, is damaged because of this lockout. If we never break out of this habit of flocking back to hockey because we’ve missed it so badly, then we’ll only have ourselves to blame when all of this happens again in 6-7 years.