Tensions are starting to grow as a second NHL lockout in seven years is closer to becoming a reality.
Up to this point, the media coverage has done a great job illustrating what the players stand to lose if they accept "X deal" or what the NHL stands to lose if they accept "Y deal" but there hasn't been a whole lot of talk about the biggest losers in this situation.
Whether the NHL or NHLPA likes it or not, he fans stand to lose the most in a potential lockout. This is not a vain statement to say that fans will lose the privilege of watching one of the greatest sports in the world. This is not saying that fans will be deprived of the NHL experience or anything of that nature.
The fact of the matter is that fans stand to lose their livelihoods if we are heady toward a lengthy NHL lockout.
Fans contribute a huge portion to hockey related revenue when you factor in ticket sales, merchandise, concessions, advertisement tie-ins and other revenue that comes out of a fan's pocket.
This is the same fan that came back after the 2004-05 lockout and embraced a league that painted "thank you fans" on the blue line—and it is the same fan that is going to be ceremoniously slapped in the face again.
Fans will once again pay the price, and it can have a trickle down effect that could impact local economies which in turn could result in average citizens losing their jobs.
The term fan is obviously used to represent the supporters of NHL clubs but the arena workers, local business owners and citizens are fans who stand to have their salaries rolled back a lot more than 24 percent.
For example in Boston, it has been reported by the Boston Business Journal that local restaurants could be hit hard by the impending lockout.
For restaurants near TD Garden, it won’t be so easy to slide through in the event of a lockout.
Peter Colton, owner of Four’s Boston Restaurant, says that his business, which is a mere two minute walk from the Garden, could take a severe hit from the cancellation of just a few games, let alone the entire season.
“Without those events, we wouldn’t be here, a lot of other businesses wouldn’t be here,” he said, adding that Bruins game generate the most revenue for his restaurant out of all arena events. “People don’t come home here at the end of the day, they don’t live here, for the most part.”
The restaurant business thrives or dies based on the amount of traffic and activity going on each week. For restaurants that rely on NHL games for business, a lockout could impact overall sales and the trickle-down effect could result in servers and other employees losing their jobs.
If you have ever worked in the food services industry, you would realize that the hours are long, the work is hard and the pay isn't so great. With the current labor disputes a battle between billionaires and millionaires, average Joe and Jane end up paying the price. This should not be the case for the backbone of the NHL.
Without the fans, there is no NHL and that isn't an arbitrary statement by any means because Commissioner Gary Bettman himself has stated on many occasions that the NHL has the most loyal and supporting fans.
The biggest difference between this impending lockout and the 2004-05 lockout is the vast difference in public appeal and the increased voice of the fans through social media. The NBA lockout saw many fans tweet their displeasure at players, owners and other officials and you can expect the NHL's fans to do the same.
As of November 2011, the average NHL salary was $2.4 million, and that is more than most fans will make in their entire lifetime let alone in one calendar year. Paul Bissonette cause a bit of a stir on Twitter amongst the NHL fanbase on Wednesday when he sent the following tweets.
Fans. The players understand your frustration. But at the end of the day we are fighting for our futures, not yours. That's the reality.— Paul Bissonnette (@BizNasty2point0) September 13, 2012
Question to the fans. If a company you worked for was making money and they asked you to take a 24% pay cut would you do it?— Paul Bissonnette (@BizNasty2point0) September 13, 2012
If you take the average salary figure of $2.4 million and take away 24 percent, it is a net loss of $576,000, leaving the average player with approximately $1.84 million. With that in mind, is it really the best course of action for a player to "poke the bear" by asking fans this question?
Fans on Twitter were quick to point out that a player like Bissonette who will only make $625,000 would be affected by that huge rollback as opposed to someone like Shea Weber.
Bissonette was commenting on the latest round of proposals and what the players are facing.
It may be easy to criticize Bissonette for what he said but he isn't wrong completely. He is right that the players shouldn't have to make that big of a concession but it isn't right to say that the fan's future is not being fought for.
The players gave up a lot in the last round of collective bargaining so it is understandable that they are leery of being taken advantage of again. However, the tweets can be viewed as pointing out the elephant in the room.
Everyone likely was thinking what Bissonette tweeted, but did he really have to say it?
In reality, 8.3 percent of Americans are out of work so when an average fan sees that players and owners are fighting for a slightly bigger part of an already large and very lucrative pie, it is going to rub them the wrong way when they stand to lose the most in an NHL lockout.
This lockout is going to be driven a lot through P/R so these tweets were not maybe the wisest course of action by Bissonette.
The NHL and the NHLPA cannot both claim to have the fans in mind and then engage in bad-faith negotiations. Are the C.B.A. talks likely complicated in nature?
In all honesty they are and don't perceive this as an undermining of what is at work here. However, the fans are the ones being left in the dust. The fans are going to be the ones unemployed in the long term, the players will eventually get their millions of dollars and the fans will be left with nothing.
The latest NHL proposal showed the league made some concessions in a deal that was " designed to get done before September 15th" but it appears that will not happen.
It is September 13th and the clock is ticking. The fans are very anxious because their entire lives could be turned upside down once again if the NHL locks the players out.
Jim Matheson of the Edmonton Journal summed it up best with these tweets and it really makes you think about how ridiculous this potential lockout really is.
As @walsha correctly says, NHL offer 49% now to players and drops, NHLPA is 53.3. OK, get in between No. to start, say 52% and get to 50-50.— Jim Matheson (@NHLbyMatty) September 13, 2012
Ludicrous with $3.3 billion in revenues to have NO hockey. Both sides, get your act together.— Jim Matheson (@NHLbyMatty) September 13, 2012