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The Vent: Open letter to Gary Bettman; hockey dad laments the NHL lockout

Greg Wyshynski
Puck Daddy

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THE VENT is a forum to 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.)

Dave thinks the solution to this mess is to stop. Buying. Stuff.

From Dave:

OK, as a former fan I really see the solution as simple. I have seen it work in Europe in Soccer leagues. and sure it has occurred elsewhere.

Example.  last summer I visited Croatia, a small country known for its Soccer greats ... and one of their local / best overall trams Dynamo Zagreb were losing many many games and people who already can barely make ends meet paid money to watch them lose a lot.

I will keep it short n sweet and TRUST ME THIS IS THE ONLY SOLUTION. The game I saw in Zagreb last summer was priced, all tickets, $1. The point? Get people in the stadium!! People MUST STOP PAYING FOR LEAFS TICKETS AND GOING, STOP SPENDING ANY $ AT ALL, NO JERSEYS, NOTHING.

I know the rich corporations who buy blocks of ticks and then only a few people really end up even attending, just watch how many of the priciest seats are empty! The solutions for the corps? Hmm? Not sure, I know many of the buyers in these corps get kick back and even go to the games but imagine 89% of the seats empty and unsold?

Brilliant. Let us unite people.

Look, people are going to buy tickets, watch games. It's just going to happen.

But boycotting that other stuff? It's feasible, given the fans' anger.

Don Carryer is a hockey dad from Dayton, and he's had enough of this:

I am 47 years old and I have a 12 year old son that plays youth hockey. I am divorced, so the time that I have with my son is very special to me.

In the past several years we have grown to love hockey together. I have been a fan most of my life. I grew up in Pittsburgh, and followed the Penguins along with the Steelers and Pirates. After the baseball strike, in the 90's, I quit baseball all together. I have not spent a single dime on baseball since then and I never will.

My son is a goalie, I pay $45 per year for USA Hockey, $800 a season for league fees, close to $1000 per year on equipment, $60 per hour for private lessons, and countless more on tournament fees and other costs. In addition to this, any extra money that I have, my son and I have gone to games in Columbus, as we now live in Dayton, OH.

[More: NHL cancels regular-season schedule through Oct. 24]

I work two jobs just so my son and I can enjoy this time of his life, create memories that will last a lifetime. I spend a lot of time teaching my son to be kind, fair, and to have a sense of responsibility.

YOU have a responsibility to the market that YOU have created. YOU and your friends make more money in a year than I will in my entire life. You are arguing about money that means nothing to you. YOU waste more money than I spend on groceries for a year.

WAKE UP !!!!

There are millions of kids playing youth hockey and parents that spend billions of dollars for them to do so. Each and every one of those kids looks up to one player or another. YOU are taking away something that our children love, YOU are going to force them to look elsewhere for their heroes. I know that the little bit of money that I spend is insignificant to you and you friends, but it means the world to my son. I will tell you that if season is cancelled, my son and I will be having a long talk as to whether we spend another dime on YOUR mess.

Man, that's straight from the heart. And we're sure he's not alone.

And now … BETTMAN SAUCE!

Here is Nick Wenck, a Minnesota Wild fan in New York, on the cost of his fandom:

I am a Minnesota native that currently lives in Manhattan editing for an soccer channel. Yes, a soccer channel. Being from MN, and needing hockey on a daily basis to stay mentally healthy (man I miss the Modes #9 North Stars days) I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I AM GOING TO DO THIS WINTER. I moved out to NYC in February and was lucky enough to catch the Devils/Rangers run.

I figured that living in NYC and watching my team would be costly. BUT since there is no NHL season, I'll save a lot of cheddar.

Here are the expenses that I calculated (please keep in mind that I didn't include the costs of a long SCF run the WILD would have made (jokes)) and also **NOTE** I did not include any flight/hotel/pregame/postgame expenses -- I only wanted to include what I think are 'NHL' costs:

NON-GAME COSTS:

NHL Center Ice (2011-2012 price): $171.80
MN Wild Authentic Zip Hoodie: $79.99
MN Winter Knit Hat: $19.99
NHL13 for XBOX: $59.99
Parise Jersey: $159.99

Total: $491.76

*NOTE: Already have a Parise USA jersey, but a Wild one is necessary for the NJD vs. MN game in Newark.

GAME COSTS:

Wild vs. Panthers (in St. Paul) 10/27 (Tickets+Beer+Food): $48 + ($11 x 5) + $14  = $117
Wild vs. Bruins (in Boston) 11/6 (TBF):$201.00
Wild vs. Rangers (in NYC) 11/8 (TBF) $171.00
Wild vs. Devils (in Newark) 11/11 (TBF) $155.00
Wild vs. Flyers (in Philadelphia) (TBF) $195.00
Wild vs. Stars (in St. Paul) 12/26 (TBF) $151.00
Wild vs. Islanders (in Uniondale) 2/5 (TBF) 145.00

Total: $1135.00

TOTAL: $1626.76

There you have it. A very LOW projection of what I would have spent this year. BUT when you multiply that by X amount of fans = sad face for the NHL  :(

Looks like I'll be watching the locals partake in Ice Hockey In Harlem (IHIH) will have to do this year.

IHIH, ASAP. Although does the Sandman from "Showtime At The Apollo" sweep away the losing team?

Finally, here's an open letter from Blake Kirchick, a San Jose Sharks fan:

Mr. Gary Bettman —

Before you discredit this letter and assume it's yet another hateful bash on you and your policies, please know that I am approaching you in the humblest, most composed and thoughtful manner possible.

Strange, I know, considering I'm a die-hard Sharks fan.

I understand that you're a lawyer and a businessman, and part of your job description involves renegotiating collective bargaining agreements to further the success of the league.  And what a success it has been.  In just a few short years, you've managed to play a vital role in increasing the NHL's annual revenue by nearly 60%, bringing it from $2.1 billion to $3.3 billion.

Ironically enough, this seems to be the root of the problem.

Due to the recent success of the league, I understand that the NHL needs significant financial aid in order to stay afloat the way you want it to.  After carefully weighing all potential options, you, Mr. Bettman, suggest that the best course of action is to ask the players for a percentage of their salaries; just a small percentage from their pay to be reinvested in the league to keep hockey alive.

Simple enough, right?  Well, not exactly.

[Also: Outrage, indifference as NHL cancels regular-season games]

I see the need on the league's end, and I see the logic behind approaching the Players' Association (after all, they have the money) for the appropriate funds, but I urge you to see this from the perspective of the players.  First of all, let's remove the amount of money from the equation, and instead focus on the principle of your request.

You're asking to use a cut of the players' salaries to remedy a financial need; a financial need that was created by the outcome of previous CBAs, and the ever-growing popularity of the NHL.  Essentially, you're asking the players to bail you out.  You're asking the players to take a massive hit from their salaries so that the league can be where you want it to be.  Just seven years ago, the players took a 24% salary cut (which they agreed to) so they could play the game, and now you're asking for them to do this again?  You don't have to look very hard to discover the reason behind their frustration. Furthermore, the financial atmosphere of the NHL is in no way, shape, or form the fault of the players.  They were offered a contract by the team owners, and they agreed to that contract.  Additionally, they are still in that agreement, and shouldn't be forced out of it for reasons beyond their control.

The issues surrounding the current player lockout are a pain.  I get it.  I know it's controversial, and unfortunately, it seems that most fans are only choosing to see one side of this coin — the side that claims you are an evil CEO bossman who just wants to rob us hockey fans of our happiness.  They say you've achieved the ultimate hat trick: three successful lockouts in under two decades.  And while I admit the hat trick joke is rather cleverly comical, it certainly frustrates me to see my fellow hockey lovers be so narrow-minded.

The reason I'm writing to you today is not because I'm upset at your policies, nor am I upset at your attempts to solve the problems surrounding the lockout.

I'm writing to you because I'm upset that there could potentially be no NHL season this year.

I'm upset because there's no hockey on T.V. right now.  I'm upset because I can't show up to HP Pavilion and feel like I'm home.  I'm upset I can't go to the Honda Center wearing the other team's jersey just to piss off the Ducks fans.  I'm upset because I love hockey, and it's hard being a hockey fan.

Yeah, I said it; it's hard being a hockey fan at all.  In a country where popular sports are games with only 12 minutes of actual play-time (football), or games that should be called "nine innings of nap time," I get no love for being a hockey fan.  It's hard to be a hockey fan when the biggest sports channels on television think hockey is an action you perform to spit out a loogie.

And, well, it's hard to be a hockey fan when you like the Shar— *cough cough* sorry, I was choking on something…

Most of all, however, it's hard to be a hockey fan when there's no season at all.  And to be fair, I understand the circumstances that are currently postponing the season, and furthermore, I think you probably have one of the most (if not the most) difficult jobs in all of professional sports right now.  I don't think anyone would want your responsibilities at the moment, and despite the fact that everyone seems to have the solution to this lockout conundrum, I doubt they could be any more efficient than you're attempting to be.

I'm not saying that your reasons for negotiating the new CBA are wrong, and I don't think that this lockout issue is one of taking sides.  I do believe, however, that asking the players to bail out the owners isn't an effective way of achieving success for the league.

In fact, the player lockout is doing just the thing that you're trying to avoid: it's reducing league popularity and revenue.  The Phoenix Coyotes had a franchise season last year; do you really think Arizona residents are going to remember the Desert Dogs if an entire season is cancelled?

The L.A. Kings just took their first Cup in franchise history, or in other words, L.A. residents just found out that their city has a hockey team.

The New York Rangers are playing some of the best hockey they've played in decades, and while all these franchises are on the cusp of athletic (and financial) greatness, the players get locked out.  The ultimate buzz kill.

The league is responsible for managing its funds.  The league is responsible for making sure owners aren't paying more than they can afford.  And the league is responsible for dealing with the ramifications of their decisions.  If you want to keep a sharp eye on spending and prevent this from ever happening again, take it up with the people that are giving the money, not the people who are getting it.

If you truly want to keep the NHL a successful hockey league, you need to let the players play hockey.  At the end of the day, we are all on the same team.  The owners, the players, and the fans just want hockey.  That's it.  We want to see the puck drop.  We want to see our favorite players score goals, make plays, and dish out big hits.  We want to watch our favorite sport, and we want to watch our favorite club make history.

From the perspective of the fans and players, it seems as though your concern is not with the sport, but rather with the money that it generates.  Frankly, I want to believe that you are a true hockey fan, and I want to believe that you want to see hockey this season as badly as I do.

I urge you to let the puck drop for the good of the sport, the owners, the players, and the fans.  When your actions in CBA negotiations reflect that having a hockey season is your first and foremost priority, I promise that you will be supported.

I want hockey.  We all do.  And when you make it perfectly clear that that's exactly what you want, I will support you and your actions 100 percent, even if you're a Ducks fan.

I sincerely thank you for your time …

*drops mic* ...

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