NHL Center ice proposal; ‘just straight dookie’; Avs fan unwilling to be fooled thrice (The Vent)

Harrison Mooney

(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.)

Today's Vent opens not with a rant, but with an intriguing idea from Brent Bush:

A colleague and I have been discussing offers that the NHL should be making towards fans once this maddeningly frustrating NHL Lockout is concluded. One thing that keeps leaping off of the page is that the NHL should come out of the gates with an offer of free NHL Center Ice Package. Options for length of offer would be:

- All season
- The amount of season days that were lost in lockout
- 30-60 days

I think one of those options would seem fair for everyone. It would be mutually beneficial, because if the NHL wants scorned fans to come back, offering their product on TV for free would be one path of little resistance.

What do you think? I'm always down for getting something for free, especially by way of an apology.

Okay, back to the rants. Reader Flannigan thinks this lockout is just straight dookie:

I really wish I could wax poetical like I've read others do in this forum. But alas, its way to early in the morning for me to do so. I was introduced to the sport in the  "non-traditional" market of Northern California many moons ago. I became a fan of the San Jose Sharks after I started playing hockey, which I go into after catching a Boston Bruins-Hartford Whalers game on ESPN (Yeesh, that sounds incredibly old...). I guess then that makes me a "die-hard" fan.

Along the way, I've even converted some of my hockey-hating friends to the way of the puck. But honestly, this is just straight dookie.

The only sport I've ever really given two excrements about is not there. And now, living in LA (another non-traditional), I was hoping that a Stanley Cup would be enough to get the attention focused somewhere other than on basketball and crying about not having a football team. While I think both sides are being stubborn jackasses, I do lean more to siding with the players. Right now, to me, the owners are just coming off as huge corporate d-bags; whining about ridiculous deals they made and asking for help when they've put themselves in that position to begin with. Hey, I didn't get bailed out when I ran up all my credit cards. Live by the crazy huge contract, die by the crazy huge contract. Or so I've (never) heard.

I wish I could say I wont be back after this. But with gas prices the way they are and a host of other issues a 2 or 3 hour commute to watch ECHL teams in Ontario or Bakersfield just doesnt seem worth it or plausible. And add to the fact that I'm not really able to PLAY hockey this season on top of everything else? Now this REALLY {expletive}-ing sucks.

The NHL probably has no idea the good fortune it's taken to win James Nelson's fandom, but now they're squandering it:

Let me preface this by saying that I am not a 50-something lifer who is in his golden years reminiscing about the good ol' days of the NHL when there was no labor strife. Back when the game was played for the game, not for the money, and the game was run by people who loved the game, not people who loved writing off losses on their taxes.

I began my love of hockey in the spring of '94, the first game I ever watched on TV being a Kings-Canadiens finals game. The game was beautiful, a perfect combination of speed, strength and finesse, not to mention a matchup-for-the-ages in Gretzky vs Roy. I couldn't get enough, I remember begging my mother immediately for a stick and ball, just to practice like they did. My friends and I spent half that summer emulating the finals, I played goalie as Roy, and my friends took turns pretending to be the great one.

The following season however, didn't start on time because of a labor stoppage, and my friends went back to watching their regular sports, basketball and football respectively. I was too young to understand the labor dispute back then, all I knew was the game I had just become enamored with was gone and my alternatives weren't as mesmerizing as hockey was. By the time hockey came back after the new year it was too late to lure my friends back, they had their stakes placed in the NFL and NBA already.

That summer I took a school field trip to Quebec-City, the year that their NHL franchise moved to Colorado. Avalanche (and old Nords) gear was everywhere, even before they ever played a game in Colorado. My love for hockey was back, I spent a weeks worth of food money on a jersey just to support my new favorite team. And wouldn't you know it, they traded for my favorite player on their way to winning a stanley cup that year. I was in heaven: hockey was brilliant between 96-04, (even with the trap) because the rivalries were intense, and once the playoffs started they were even more so. I was treated to another cup from my favorite team in 2001 and it was as if I had just gone on a second honeymoon, everything was amazing. During that time my team chased after allstars both in trades and as free agents: Bourque, Selanne, Kariya, Blake.

Then came 2004, where I watched my favorite player retire, and then the ensuing lockout and salary cap CRUSHED my favorite team. I had to watch my favorite forward (Forsberg) walk away because Stan Kroenke adopted a more tight-fisted approach with the money and other key players walked simply because we didn't have cap space to keep them. Since then I have watched top tier free agents pass over Colorado, if they even submit an offer in the first place. I have watched dismal seasons resulting in the #2 and #3 picks in the draft respectively, but I stayed loyal to my team.

I am not someone who has had disposable income over the years, so I rarely bought gear and have never attended an NHL game. I own two jerseys - my original Avs nameless sweater from Quebec, and a Brodeur jersey that my best-friend turned rangers-fan bought me because he knows how much I love good goaltending. I own two hats, an old-school 'Yotes hat with the multi-colored wolf/player hybrid, and the avs hat that stays in the back window of my car. With that said, my family and friends made plans to take me to my first live NHL game this year to celebrate my 30th birthday. I was asked what name I wanted on the back of the jersey that was to be part of my gift, and I had a lot to choose from: Landeskog, Duchene, Stastny, Varlamov.... I wanted one of each honestly and it was a hard choice to make, my team looked promising again for the first time in years.

As the season loomed and no CBA was signed I told my family and friends to hold off on any gear or tickets until I was sure that I would be able to enjoy the full experience. As the games got cancelled, thus too were the ones slated to be played on my birthday. And so my first NHL game experience had to be postponed, and my birthday jersey was replaced with one from an NFL team.

As the season spirals down the tubes, I find it hard to want to come back again. Will I watch televised games? Sure if I come across them while flipping channels, but I'm surely not buying gamecenter or center ice like I used to. Will I support my franchise? My beloved Avalanche? In spirit I will, and the jersey remains hung on my wall to remind me of the good days. But the NHL will never see my money from another jersey sale, or concessions bought, or even tickets at the door.

I am mad at the NHL for letting this happen. There is plenty of wiggle room for these millionaires and billionaires to find common ground, but each side has set out on their journey to "win" the negotiations much like the owners set out to do in 04-05. I have never in my life come across a business where you could do nothing to improve your bottom dollar yet still argue that you are losing money. I have lived both the high life and the low life with my franchise, watching them spend to the rafters and scrape the floor.

Please tell me NHL, why would you reward a team for spending as little as possible by giving them extra money, (yay revenue sharing!) so that they can continue to spend as little as possible and reap those benefits? Why would you reward the owners with rollbacks on salary that they already agreed to, if you werent offended by the outrageous cost of those contracts when you approved them? (Kovalchuk anyone?) If your biggest complaint is the amount of money paid out in contracts, why force teams to spend money with a salary cap minimum? Competitive balance? Parity? Are you really more concerned with the thousands of fans that miss hockey in the non-competitive markets compared to the millions who miss it in the major ones?

There are several teams that are NEVER going to spend out of the bottom 10 in the league, simply to rake in revenue and write off losses against their other businesses to maximize profit margins. This league will never be profitable for everyone involved in ownership, nor should it be. You can't cry poor when your investments dont pan out because you're the one who put the money on the line. It's the same as gambling: you can make or lose money and the outcome is never a sure thing.

I've tried to be rational with this. I've tried to let my love for the game of hockey stay above the politics, and the back and forth campaign to beat each other in a fight that neither can really win, and the end result is me flipping my channel to football, or basketball (ugh) for my sports fix. You win NHL, and by winning you lose more than two weeks worth of my salary in sales and merchandise, so congratulations.

And finally, a "grave" warning from Paul Oster:

While it is the first time my team has gone this late in the season undefeated, I will no longer be a hockey fan. You owners have a job to do and that is to put players on the ice. Honestly I don't care if you put high school players on the ice. You failed. I understand the issues with the lockouts and I respect that. However, you should have put some players on the ice. Many of never went back to baseball since the strike of the 20th century. I will never be a baseball fan just as I will never be an NHL fan again. When the NFL went on strike, they put other players on. Get real. Your whole future is gone now. You think you weren't making money before? You haven't seen the worst of it. You will now lose more than fifty per cent of your fan base. Just like baseball did. I am not going to say good luck. You dug your grave...

- A former MLB and NHL fan

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