NHL Lockout: Why Both Sides Are Forgetting the Fans…Again

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NHL Lockout: Why Both Sides Are Forgetting the Fans…Again
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The countdown to another NHL lockout is entering its final stages, and as labor negotiations continue, the league and its players have once again proven that they are willing to forget about the fans while they try to strike a deal that favors their side.

Hockey fans don't deserve the kind of disrespect that the players and owners of their favorite NHL teams are showing them. Only hockey fans could see their sport lose an entire season, and then return to it when doors open again and show new levels of support toward their teams.

These people are the most passionate fans of all the major sports in North America, yet they are constantly brushed to the side when billionaires and millionaires feel they aren't getting what they deserve. 

CBC Sports tweeted a very interesting graphic with some dollar figures on different aspects of the league, and compared many of them to the numbers from the seasons before and after the recent lockout.

It's really bold of the NHL to put its fans through this kind of situation after both the owners and players couldn't save the 2004-05 season. The fans should really be angry this time around, because the overall structure of the system doesn't need earth-shattering changes. The evil in this potential lockout, as with many labor negotiations, is greed.

The league's revenues and player salaries have never been higher, yet both sides have not been willing to put in the hard work to find a system beneficial to all and ensure the 2012-13 season starts when it's supposed to.

Every fanbase is going to lose in a major way. For some, the loss of an NHL season would be devastating. Look at Winnipeg Jets fans, many of whom cried with joy when learning the news that NHL hockey was returning to their city for the first time since 1996. Just one year after getting another team, the people of Winnipeg might have no NHL team to watch next season.

Marianne Helm/Getty Images
Fans in Winnipeg could lose a year of Jets hockey just after getting them back.

What both sides are forgetting is that there would be no record revenues without the fans. The fans, as CBC's graphic shows, are responsible for the solid attendance increase of 5.5 percent since the 2003-04 season.

Without fans helping 21 of the league's 30 teams fill 96 percent or more of their arenas per game last year, the league does not build higher revenues than ever. In fact, 16 teams averaged 100 percent or better attendance last season, which is the most since the latest lockout.

The insane ticket, concession and merchandise prices that fans pay has also helped the players make more money now than they ever have. As CBC points out, players' salaries have grown 69 percent in the seven seasons following the 2004-05 lockout. That is a tremendous jump, but without loyal fans giving their teams unbelievable support, the players would not be as rich as they are now.

Both sides are also forgetting that the league's lucrative television deals with NBC and CBC are because of the fans. High ratings, especially during the playoffs, are a result of the fans wanting to watch as much hockey as possible. These deals are a major source of revenue for the league and its players, yet each side is willing to test the patience of the people that made these deals possible.

In business, the customer is king, and customer service is a very important part of any successful business. However, the NHL owners and players don't seem to believe in this philosophy. If they did, we would have a new CBA already. They have had the entire summer to work out a new agreement.

Both sides don't care about the customer because they have a product most of them cannot live without. However, you can only disrespect your customers so much before they eventually stop coming back to your business.

Unfortunately for hockey fans, the owners and players don't seem to fear that their customers won't come back.

They always say, "You are the greatest fans in sports," but when it comes time to give the fans what they deserve, the owners and players are willing to forget about the people who make their sport successful.

 

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