Dear NHL/NHLPA Powers That Be,
I am a hockey fan. More specifically, I am an ORANGE-AND-BLACK-BLEEDING, die-hard, love-my-team-even-when-they-lose, Pittsburgh-hating, Sidney-Crosby-taunting, ever-hopeful-for-the-Cup Flyers fan. My love for the sport and the Flyers began early. My dad played club hockey when I was just a wee lass, and he is a Flyers fan through and through. He and I have shared our love for the sport and our team ever since I was old enough to understand what hockey was. Gene Hart’s voice was a staple in our living room on game nights, and we both still get chills when we hear his daughter, Lauren Hart, sing God Bless America or our National Anthem before a game. We make it to games at the Wells Fargo Center when we can, and share fond memories of taking in games at the Spectrum. This season, however, we have yet to make any hockey-related memories. Why is that, you might ask? Ohhhh right. Because you guys can’t get your shit together and end this lock out.
I’ve read numerous articles on numerous sites (some of my favorites in the Philly area are The Orange Update, Buzz on Broad, and Broad Street Hockey), and I’ve got to say – it certainly does not look like any of you give a damn about your fans. Gary Bettman, the owners, Don Fehr, et. al… you have all had us on an emotional roller coaster all week. Wednesday night, there were rumors flying that we could get word of the season FINALLY starting. I cannot tell you how many of us were obsessively refreshing our Twitter feeds and holding our breath to hear if the sport we love so much would be something we get to experience this season. When Thursday rolled around, we were hearing a different tune. An agreement is now a long ways off, and cancellations at LEAST through the first of the year are likely on their way. You’ve already taken All Star Weekend and the Winter Classic away from us, and robbed us all of the first half of the season.
If you search NHL Lockout on YouTube, I can guarantee you will find video after video of fans expressing their disappointment, their passion, their frustration, and their sadness. Hockey fans aren't like baseball or football or basketball fans. If you've ever been to an NHL playoff game, you will know I'm not simply being biased. The atmosphere is unmatched, the fans are unrivaled. We take every single play, every single penalty, every single goal personally. We may not be on the ice with our teams, but for those sixty mintues, we live and breathe their every move. In Philadelphia, we have fans who are staples at every game:
Dave “The Sign Man” Leonardi
Dave “The Sign Man” Leonardi, has been a presence at Flyers games longer than I’ve been alive (you can catch a great write up about him here). Every single home game, “The Sign Man” is there, with a plethora of signs, taunting the visiting team and encouraging our boys in Orange & Black. Dancin’ Shawny, seen below, is a Flyers staple as well, getting the crowd rowdy and ready to go.
Dancin’ Shawny Hill
These super fans, if you will, are only a part of the Flyers experience. From the electric atmosphere in the WFC, to the hoardes of people that cram into local bars to catch a game, to my dad, who typically watches at home and yells at the TV, the Flyers are a part of our lives. We wear their colors year round, we count down the days until our home opener, and our blood pressure rises and falls with the ups and downs of every game. Without the fans, what do you, as a league, have left? Empty buildings, no revenue, and no reason for existence. When did you forget this?
I understand that the NHL is a business, each team in itself, is a business. The goal of a business is to make money, and I think on a rational level, your fans all understand that. What we don’t understand, is how you can so blindly continue this charade, when WE are your source of income. Sure, you make money off your advertisers, but at the end of the day, without us, there is no NHL. The millions of dollars in ticket sales, concessions, merchandise, etc. you pull in every year? Gone without the fans, the people you have so blatantly betrayed this 2012-2013 season. This lock out is about money, and as it stands now, you aren’t making any. Locking the players out doesn’t put butts in seats, it doesn’t sell tickets. You know what it does? It pisses us off. It depresses us. It makes us lose trust in you, and it makes us question how many more times we can go through this (since, you know, Mr. Bettman, this is the THIRD lockout we’ve seen during your reign as NHL commissioner).
Do you know how hard it is to see our favorite players board planes to far-off countries to play for leagues overseas? To worry that they could sustain a career-ending injury wearing a sweater that doesn’t bear our favorite team’s logo? To wonder if they’re ever coming back? Do you know what it’s like to wait all summer long and to count down the days until our teams take the ice, only to find out your greed and unwillingness to play nice with one another means no hockey? Do you know how many casual fans you lost last lockout, or how many you will likely lose after this one? It is now December, and we have yet to see NHL hockey. Do you know what that’s like for your fans who spend hundreds of of dollars for a night at one of your arenas to see our favorite players in the flesh? It doesn’t seem like you do, because we still don’t have a season.
The only positive I can see in this lock out is how it has brought the fans together. As much as we love our rivalries, we love our sport more. The love of the game transcends team loyalties. This lockout has reached a point where most of us no longer care who is right or who is wrong. We just want hockey back. And we want it back now.
Frustrated and Defeated,
The Walking Mishap