An Open Letter to Gary Bettman and NHL Owners – a fans perspective 6


Dear Mr. Bettman and NHL Owners,
I am writing you to share my thoughts about the current NHL lockout and this year’s hockey “season.”  Who am I and why should you listen to me?  I’m probably just another average guy and hockey fan, right?  Wait!  Hockey fans are not your average sports fan.  In fact, according to a study shared by the Chicago Blackhawks, we are the most sophisticated fans of all major sports fans (*see below for our profile).  Seems like you’d want my thoughts.
Bare with me for just a moment, while I share a little more about me and where I’m coming from here…I am an avid sports fan.  Just a few years ago, I became an avid Florida Panthers fan and purchased season tickets.  I, along with other Panthers fans started buying in to Dale Tallon’s blue-print for success (and his promise to build a championship team in South Florida).  It looked like he was doing something right as my Panthers went from worst to FIRST in the Southeastern Conference, over a two year period.  We even finished over most of those “real” hockey teams, who had recently mocked “Florida has a hockey team?”  We went on to make our first playoff appearance in 10 years and we were beginning to see red!  Before last season was halfway over, my Panthers sales rep called and was ready for me to renew in to my third year.  However, I was informed that my tickets were going to cost about twice what I’d paid the previous two seasons.  Surely, there was a misunderstanding.  I’ve been a loyal fan, a previous season ticket owner, and was even writing and spreading the word about this fabulous team on The Hockey Writers as a correspondent for the Panthers.  Nope.  That was it.  “No negotiations,” I was told.  I suppose this was the price for success.  I sucked it up.  I had come this far and couldn’t turn back.  Yet, I hardly knew at the time that this was a harbinger and sign of things to come.  The season approached and my excitement grew.  Then, I started to hear rumblings about the possible cancellation of games and maybe the season as NHL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement expired just weeks before what was to be the start of the season!  And here we are.
Over the past 3 months, I’ve watched the “negotiations” between various combinations of Union members/players/owners and the league…with little to no progress.  Throughout the negotiations, I can’t help but to wonder where the fans factor in to this equation.
Yeah, I get the whole business thing.  Owners spend a lot of money on their teams and want to see a profitable return on their investment.  The commissioner seeks to protect the interest of the owners.  The players are putting themselves out there day to day and feel like they should be compensated fairly.  So, the two sides argue over how to split a few million dollars.
Two sides?  Hasn’t it become blatantly obvious to the two sides that have been “negotiating” that there is a third party involved here?  Yes, back to me…the average/sophisticated guy…who is trying to represent the millions of hockey fans that are also affected by the lockout.  You’ve made a point of keeping the content of your negotiations secret, while stringing us along.  While you continue to argue about how the league’s revenue should be divided, it seems like you are overlooking the source of the revenue.  You are also assuming that the same source will still be there when you’re done arguing.  Yes, this is where I come in.  I (the fan) write the checks.  Yes, you might sign the paychecks, but without me and my checks for season tickets…well, where would you be?
Almost a year ago, you refused to negotiate with me.  Now the only choice that I have is to wait to find out if the “entire” season is cancelled before I have the option of getting a refund on my “season” tickets?
Let’s talk numbers, since you’re in the negotiating process.
Last year the NHL’s revenue was almost 3 Billion dollars!  Interestingly, the same post (which comes from NHL.com) describes NHL fans as “the most coveted fan demographic in all of pro sports.”  Coveted?  Really?  I’m not feeling that right now.
The average price for a seat for season ticket holders during the 2011-2012 season was $57.10 per game.  Multiply that by 44 home games and you have $2,512.40 per seat for the season.  While that’s the average price, a pair of tickets for the season could end up costing more than a new car.  Just using my best guess as an example (hey, I’m just an average guy and blogger), if the NHL collected $829,092,000 in regular season seat sales for this season (which is based on 11,000 season tickets per team – and probably a conservative guess), then just the interest made on that money over the past year would be somewhere close to the $50,000,000 range.
You didn’t want to negotiate with me, then collect interest on my money that you’ve been holding on to for the past year, while you try to decide what to do with the season and all of the money…that came from the fans in the first place.  Should I be mad?  Should I remain loyal, despite not being considered during this process?
These are my thoughts and questions to you.  I would like to know what your thoughts are and why I shouldn’t expect you to negotiate with me.   Why should I continue to be a loyal and paying fan? Arguing over how to divide up the league’s money, cancelling games, and leaving fans in the dark simply leaves a bad taste in this fan’s mouth.  It certainly doesn’t seem to be helping the sport, which had been growing in popularity until this point.  Do those things have a value also?
Mr. Bettman, after 3 lockouts during your time as Commissioner, perhaps it’s time for a “Fan Lockout” until we see that we are valued as well.
Maybe you should pay attention to Mastercard, who gets that some things are priceless.

* from http://blackhawks.nhl.com/

About Mark Williams

Mark is a 50 year old sports fanatic, who lives in West Palm Beach, Florida. He's a passionate sports fan, who loves FSU football, the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Bucs! He has written as a Correspondent for the Florida Panthers on The Hockey Writers and enjoys blogging about sports and inspirational stories. When not busy following sports, Mark works as a licensed psychotherapist. His dream is to combine his passion for sports and helping people through his writing. Email: mark@thoughtsonsports.com

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