The notion that “we’re to blame!” for the NHL lockout has always seemed like a lazy diagnosis.
True, hockey fans are more responsible for their team’s financial windfalls and shortcomings than any other league, because arena revenues are professional hockey’s lifeblood.
But to hold fans responsible for the lockout – in that we enable the owners by constantly coming back to the NHL after every work stoppage – is to unfairly believe we’d be able to do something no other fan base has done in the history of labor strife: Massively boycott the League into submission, so that it never shuts down the game again.
Because that’s gonna happen …
With all the anger we’ve read from fans during the last few months, you’d expect more than a few would have made a statement with their bank accounts – especially the die-hards that own season tickets.
But actually, it’s just a few. And by that we mean 15 cancellations in a passionate hockey town like Buffalo.
The Sabres have 15,400 season ticket-holders and more than 3,000 others on a waiting list for tickets known as the Blue & Gold Club. Even though the lockout has stretched past 100 days and wiped out more than half of the 2012-13 season, the team reports just 15 accounts have canceled – accounting for fewer than 50 tickets.
On top of that, only about 20 percent have opted for refunds on the canceled games. The rest have kept their money with the team, earning 4 percent interest that will be refunded on credits for future tickets, merchandise or concessions.
It’s the same in a few other markets that have reported cancellations.
As of Dec. 19, the Tampa Bay Lightning said that “about 100 Lightning season-ticket accounts have been canceled because of the lockout,” according to the Tampa Bay Times.
As of Dec. 20, the Pittsburgh Penguins reported just 45 season-ticket holders had cancelled their accounts, according to the Post-Gazette.
Why the lack of cancelled season tickets? Two simple theories:
1. That, as we said at the top, fans believe nothing they do will amount to a hill of beans, ever if this is our hill and these are our beans. So while some fans might feel better about having made a statement, others feel their cancellation would fall on deaf ears unless there are a few thousand other like-minded fans also taking a stand.
2. That, as we said at the top, the fans will always come back. So on top of the fans that refuse to cancel because they love their team and love the game and are counting the days until the end of the lockout, you have a [expletive] load of ticket-starved fans on waiting lists ready to pounce if any open up.
The Penguins have a waiting list of 9,500 fans for season tickets. The Sabres have 3,000.
Perhaps that’s why, between them, only 60 season-ticket accounts have been cancelled during the lockout. Because it’s not like there won’t be another fan less concerned with teaching the NHL a lesson and more concerned about securing a seat for 41 home games and the playoffs …
If you’re a season-ticket holder, have you considered giving up your tickets to make a statement?