Raise your hand if you’ve heard enough.
Enough fluff and enough lies from both the NHL and the NHLPA, and not enough of the constructive talk for your liking. Now raise your other hand if you’ve heard enough of the faux bravado from frustrated fans. Look, ma! No hands! It’s all enough to make your eyes roll so far back in your head that you can see the the death of a thousand brain cells.
For whatever reason, there’s a pesky insistence that fan sentiment actually matters when push comes to shove. Does anyone seriously think the words “let’s think of the fans here?” ever escaped the lips of anyone inside the negotiation room? Ever? Doubtful.
Our words, our threats, our frustration means nothing. Full stop, end of story, period.
As much as the owners and players say that they’re sorry, and that we fans are the ones that get screwed, the harsh reality is that actions always speak louder than words, and right now, there’s precious little action being taken by either side with skin in the game. The stark reality is that we have no role in this, try as we might to insert ourselves in to the equation. Yet there are countless fans brave-tweeting their boycott of all things hockey, and there are all kinds of petitions out there in an attempt to pressure both parties to get to work. Noble, but naive. Our tweets, petitions and threats are akin to trying to sink a battleship with empty soda cans. Like most issues in business, this is about cold, hard cash, and nothing else.
It would be more than fair to say that the vast majority of fans presently side with the players. It would also be fair to say that the fans don’t care about the details of the new CBA, as long as it leads to the puck being dropped. Finally, it’s a safe bet that the majority of fans would agree with Guy Lafleur who suggested that the owners and players split the pie 50-50 and call it a day.
With all that in mind, should the owners be the first to propose a 50-50 split, the player bandwagon would empty as quickly as it filled up, with everyone waiting for Donald Fehr to rubber stamp the deal…which they wouldn’t based on their current rhetoric. So much for fans taking sides.
Rest assured, the owners and players both know the fickle nature of fan loyalty in this matter, which is precisely why the moaning emanating from the fan base equals exactly squat. The truth is that the loyalty of the fans is not with the players, or the owners. The fans loyalties lie with whichever plan of action leads down the quickest path of least resistance and facilitates puck drop. The owners and players also know that the fans who threaten to walk away are full of crap. They didn’t walk away last time (as evidenced by hockey related revenue growing by over 50% since the last lockout ended). They know fans will come running back as quickly as possible, with fistfuls of cash in-hand. And let’s think this through for one second. There are fans out there saying that they’re on the verge of walking away, yet they hang on every word of the negotiations (when the sides actually meet). It makes no sense that anybody would follow the negotiations so closely, only to walk away once a deal was struck. That would be like a kid on Christmas Eve going nutty with anticipation, then on Christmas morning deciding that he no longer wants to open any gifts.
So if you really want your anger and frustration to count for something, forget the empty threats, and tune out now. If you’re one who is ready to walk away, then walk away now, because you won’t do it later when talks inevitably heat up. If you have other interests, now is the time to indulge in them. The only way the NHL will think twice about locking players out again is if they see a serious short term financial consequence. If your disposable income is going in to somebody else’s coffers, the NHL will not like it one bit. They’re counting on your slavish devotion, and banking that you’ll fall back in line. They’ve gone all-in believing that they know how the chips will fall.
The least you can do, if you are one that is threatening to walk away, is to make the NHL work for your time and money whenever it returns to action. If you become wrapped up in another hobby during the lockout, the NHL will sweat just a little bit, and be that much less inclined to do this again.