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Stop blaming Gary Buttman, er, Bettman; love for AHL during NHL lockout (THE VENT)

Greg Wyshynski
Puck Daddy

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VENT-LARGE

THE VENT is a forum for rants, raves, pleas and laments from hockey fans across the world about the NHL lockout. It runs every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. If you've got a take on the lockout and need to let it out, email us at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com, Subject: The Vent.

Please allow Angela a chance to vent:

I am a Bruins season ticket holder, which at this moment means I'm investing a large sum of money in an organization that isn't giving me anything that I signed up for except 3 percent interest towards my refund for games they refused to provide. As part of my "fanatic" package, I had the opportunity to have my picture taken with the 2011 championship banner this past Saturday afternoon; and what I saw while I was there is the exact reason a boycott of any real impact would never be possible.

I understand I was only privy to what I saw of the folks that had tickets during my late afternoon timeslot but I can tell you this — there were a lot of people and they were all wearing some form of Bruins merchandise and they were ecstatic to be there and get a tour of the renovated locker room — before the players have even seen it! Knowing that we were standing in the same room the players should have been walking into to prepare for a game against the Penguins was dispiriting enough, but being reminded that the players have yet to see it ticked me off!

Everyone in that room just seemed so OK with the fact that they're not getting what they paid for during yet another lockout, and were happy to have the tour, their picture taken and at least some sort of Bruins interaction. I understand where they're coming from, but it's not like it was some sort of sneak peek for luxury ticket owners - THEY GAVE US A TOUR OF A ROOM WHEN THERE SHOULD HAVE BEEN PLAYERS IN IT PREPARING FOR A GAME BUT THOSE PLAYERS COULDN'T BE THERE BECAUSE THE OWNERS LOCKED THEM OUT!

I'm sorry, but that is more of a slap in the face than the 'Thank You Fans' they probably intended…  Any other NHL organizations planning some sort of non-game related event should probably think about planning it on a day/time there wasn't supposed to be a game played.

As a fan I don't even know how to feel anything but annoyed anymore, both sides claim they care, but those are just words. The game has grown over the years and so has the price of my tickets.  I am one of the reasons both the NHL and NHLPA can survive but I am treated as an afterthought along with the rest of the fans.

I am tired of receiving emails from an organization letting me know games are canceled while claiming they value my loyalty and patience as they work through a resolution, only to hear report after report that negotiations aren't going anywhere. GET IT TOGETHER!  If this lockout continues past this last round of cancellations, something's got to give because I think I'll go from annoyed to apathetic. [Insert heavy sigh]

Many of us are already there, sadly.

Scott Laskey of Grand Rapids has some lockout angst:

How can we, the fans, get the word to BOTH the players and the owners that this is it?!?!?

Cancel the season AGAIN and we are OUT!  No more money.  No more buying  merchandise, no more tickets, no more NHL Package.  NOTHING!

You are in a lose — lose situation.  If you dump on us again, we WILL NOT be back!      What will make you understand that it is OUR money you are fighting over?!?  We deserve better than this and this time we will NOT be so forgiving.

I know I am not alone in this angst!

Richard Bland from Vancouver would like to discuss "misdirected anger" at Gary Bettman.

Sure Gary Bettman is an easy target. His smug, condescending attitude and lack of general hockey knowledge makes him the perfect lightning rod for both players and fans.

However, Bettman is really just a (high paid) messenger with orders to carry out. The owners hold the Bettman puppet strings and this latest take-a-break ploy confirms my initial suspicions about this whole lockout. Remember it is a lockout, not a strike or work stoppage. The owners have been loath to negotiate at all. They want what they want and nothing else, so what is there to negotiate? They hold the power cards because they are willing to wait, what appears to be, an entire season. The owners groups don't stop playing because of injury or age, so they can wait as long as it takes, in fact seven or eight teams are saving money by not playing at all. The more profitable teams will catch up over a period of time when the game commences later than sooner because the die hard fans and corporate sponsors will return with open wallets.

To illustrate my point, here is a condensed transcript of the pre lockout meeting Bettman had with the owners...

Owners: "OK Gary this is what we want..."

Bettman: "How long are you willing to lock the players out?"

Owners: "As long as it takes."

Bettman: "An entire season?"

Owners: "Hell, two seasons if necessary."

Bettman: "I'm going to be the most hated man in pro sports."

Owners: "That's why we pay you the big bucks."

The owners are willing to risk a lot of short term income, fan hatred and job losses to get what they want because when the players crumble and the deal is in place they will recoup these losses over the following years. These are rich guys who hold all the cards and don't care about players, fans and the thousands of everyday people who rely on the sport for income. For many of them, that is how they became rich.

These guys are resetting the house rules so that when the big poker game starts up again they can bash each other again at the (hockey contract) poker table.

Reader Corey Swartz, your average college aged fan and someone who believes the AHL is a more than suitable substitute for the NHL:

As a resident of the south-central Pennsylvania region, the rivalry between the Penguins and the Flyers is intense, and I was raised a die hard Flyers fan. The lockout has created a void for me as a fan, and as the once a year trek to Philly has been put aside, my father and I were left with spare cash. While the Flyers have always been my number one NHL team, I was also raised on another tradition only people who have lived in my area can rightfully attest to: the Hershey Bears.

Growing up, the Bears were my first taste of hockey as I knew it during their 1997 Calder Cup run, and I have been fortunate enough to see three more championships since then. This lockout, while it has killed momentum for the NHL and all that jazz, leaves the spotlight to other leagues such as the AHL, which is the easiest way to experience hockey on a local level.

On a personal level, the Hershey Bears have always been my second home. Listening to John Walton (another thing WE contributed to the Caps, his incredible talents) and now Scott Stuccio on the Radio Network has always been a way of life for me, but things have contrived to allow my father and I to take the next step. This year, we got a partial season ticket plan, which panned out at roughly the same cost that yearly Flyers tickets cost. And the seats at Hershey are good ones, too; in the 100 level, about 7 rows off the ice.

This isn't to say I will hate the NHL and never support it; quite contrarily, I eagerly anticipate the return of nightly hockey coverage which is also a way of life for me. The fact of the matter is that we will all care about the NHL when it returns, some way or another because it is the most readily covered and easily accessible hockey league on the planet.

But pulling on the new logo, customized Bears jersey every weekend, taking the 20 minute trek to the Giant Center, and chanting, "B-E-A-R-S Bears Bears Bears WOOOOOOO!" after every goal, it in itself is a lifestyle for so many people.

While not every AHL team has quite the same heritage as the Hershey Bears (heck, not many NHL teams even have it), my advice to locked-out hockey fans is to support these teams. While Hershey has always been in my life and always will, the product you will see is NHL caliber, pure and entertaining at its best. It constantly amazes me how many big name NHL stars were initially AHL stars.

For instance, take the 2006 Calder Cup Champion team from Hershey. It featured players who went on to play big roles in the big leagues: Dave Steckel, Eric Fehr, Mike Green, but also featured players who remain legends and heroes just in Hershey. Would you believe a guy named Frederic Cassivi would outduel Pekka Rinne for the Cup that year? Yet "Freddie" as we called him is slated to suit up now 5 years since his last Bears game in the Alumni Game this January. The list of players goes on from there.

In short, you've heard the tales of a longtime Bears fan. Hockey means as much to me as it does to every locked out fan. I've played the game competitively for years, supported the Flyers like a diehard should (I was voted "Most likely to get thrown out of a hockey game for beating up a Penguins fan" at the end of my senior year in high school) but the Bears are a cornerstone of my hockey roots.

I wish every NHL fan had a team like the Bears to be one they can be so in touch with as you can in Hershey. If you have the time, look up your team's affiliate and take the trip down, the price of admission is worthwhile. And, if you ever vacation down to Hershey between now and next summer, make sure to take a stop by the Giant Center on game night and see local tradition.

(As a side note, if any Baby Pens fans are reading this, how many championships do you guys have again? That's right, not 11 like we do!)

John Zerebynsky has a dire warning for the NHL and its assumption that the fans will come back:

I miss NHL hockey.  As a die hard Rangers fan I can probably count less than 15 games that I haven't watched since Lockout I (regular season and playoffs).

However, I'm finding that this time around I'm spending my fall and early winter going out and spending time with friends as opposed to watching countless games.

And you know what?  I love it.  I'm playing more open hockey, being more social, and watching tons of football (which I only started getting into due to Lockout I).  I honestly don't know if I will be as diehard a fan when/if the NHL comes back.  There's a whole world out there that I can spend my time and money on that quite frankly the NHL doesn't deserve.  Not to mention I will probably never choose watching a game over playing hockey ever again.

Good luck, NHL, because I am not the only one who feels this way.

Based on what we've heard during the lockout … no, he isn't.

Finally, what we feel will be the definitive editorial statement on the work stoppage, and potentially the clarion call that finally ends the 2012 lockout.  Or someone singing "BUTTMAN!" over the old Batman theme song. One of the two.

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