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“Thank you fans” – NHL Propaganda

Toronto Sun's Al Strachan recently reported of several teams that have shown their appreciation to their fans for their support following the lockout:

– In Ottawa, management booked a children's show that evicted the Senators from the Scotiabank Place last weekend.Senators-haters, who are numerous, laughed at this, suggesting that the team didn't even have enough confidence in its ability to expect to advance to the second round.Of course it did. But Dora the Explorer is a high-revenue production, and kids can hardly be expected to come out on a school day.

So the Senators were shunted aside. After last Friday's debacle they wanted nothing more than to get back on the ice as soon as possible. But because of Dora, they had to wait until Monday. When they lost again.

– In Carolina, the Hurricanes have instituted a process that in a less fan-friendly league, might be characterized as gouging. According to the News Observer, fans are infuriated. Seats that cost $85 this round will cost $125 next round and $180 should the team get to the Stanley Cup final. That's a 47% increase in one round and a further 44% in the next.

The newspaper quotes one season-ticket holder since 1999 as saying, "It's clearly a case of let's grab the money while it's there and next year be damned."

– According to Sports Business Journal, the Montreal Canadiens are about to close a blockbuster $240 million financing. As part of the deal, Canadiens owner George Gillett will pay himself a $72 million dividend.

– In San Jose the Sharks started their playoff series after the Colorado Avalanche had already played two games. The arena had booked wrestling and indoor-football events.

– The Nashville Predators threatened to black out Game 5 of their playoff series against the San Jose Sharks if fans didn't buy more seats. A deadline of two days prior to the game was imposed.

The backlash was considerable (or as considerable as a hockey backlash could be expected to be in Nashville), and the team relented after fans coughed up for most of the seats, leaving about 1,100 empty.

– The Minnesota Wild has never had an unsold seat in its existence and consistently has one of the league's lowest payrolls. It has made the playoffs once. Yet the Wild announced that it will be raising prices on every ticket next season.

– In Florida, where the Panthers didn't make the playoffs, the team had to be a bit more creative. It normally charges $15 for parking ($10 for season-ticket holders). As a result, fans took to parking across the street at a large shopping mall which encouraged the practice, and walking to the games.

The Panthers announced that they intend to build a fence around their facility so that fans who walk onto the premises can be charged $5 (for starters).

There are many other examples of the manner in which the NHL is proving that the lockout was "for the fans."

Forgive me while I feign surprise.
So much for the NHL being "all for fans", and "reduced ticket prices permanently"…. Bettman and the owners lied.
Somehow people are acting shocked by this, after the bought into Gary Bettman's claims during the lockout.

Remember how those owners blamed the players for all their woes? How they insisted it was the players high salaries that were the reason ticket prices kept going up?
A like of course.
Ask the fans of the Hurricanes, Predators, Panthers and Wild if they're feeling the love from their team's ownership.

Do you think those owners who own their arenas (which would be almost all of them) really put their hockey teams ahead of other, potentially more lucrative, revenue generators?
For that matter, how long do you think those reduced ticket prices many NHL teams introduced for this season will stay that way?
Oh, but the owners need to recoup those losses from missing the season because of those mean greedy players, right?
The NHL and the team owners sold the lockout to hockey fans as the only way to save the NHL product. Same with the CBA. Fans were promised a more affordable product because salaries were capped.

What Strachan noted above is only the beginning, NHL fans. Get used to more gouging when it comes to tickets, concessions, parking or anything else that can be squeezed out of you.
The NHL had "Thank You, Fans!" painted on the ice surfaces of the arenas, and rightfully so, after all, without the hockey-starved NHL fans turning out in record numbers (especially in Canada), the NHL wouldn't have seen its revenues for this season bounce up to close to $2.1 billion, slightly below pre-lockout levels.

You should be thanked, NHL fans. You came out to support a product that was taken away from you by greedy men who only care about you when you pass through the turnstiles of their arenas.
Most of you bought into what the NHL front office and the team owners told you about the lockout being the players fault. You honestly believed the cost of attending an NHL game would be more affordable with a salary cap.
Your money is what makes the players millionaires and the owners billionaires. You could've told these guys to go pound sand after the lockout, but you didn't, you came back, willingly and excitedly.

You did that out of blind, passionate love for your favourite professional sport, not out of stupidity.
But your love is unrequited.
The owners may be saying, "Thank you, fans", but most of them are really thinking, "Thank you, suckers".

And for those that bought into the NHL's propaganda about the cap being so friendly to low revenue teams…. guess again.
The cap is going up, way up, and it will continue to do so. It looks like it'll be roughly 45-48M next season, and I wouldn't bet on it staying at that level for long.
Some have already begun to complain, only a year after they were saying they "won it for the fans". It is actually worse for them this time as the salary floor is also going to continue to go up as well. And at least under the old CBA they could hold on to their stars until they were 31, now they are going to be gone at 25 with the lowered age for free agency.

The experts believed the league won the CBA battles in 1995 just like they thought they won them in 2005, but history has shown the players ran right over the owners a decade ago and history will prove the players won this round too.

In the battle of millionares versus billionares, did anybody really think the fans were truly being considered? The only thing the NHL has done "for the fans" is give them a middle finger, laughing as they do so.

May 14, 2006 - Posted by | NHL Business

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