Tomorrow, the NHL's Board of Governors is scheduled to meet, as the Lockout has now passed the 80-day mark. The time has long passed for urgent action to save the season. Locally, that duty falls to minority owner Joel Dobberpuhl, who serves as the Nashville Predators' governor.
I'm writing you today to advise that you speak up, firmly and passionately, in support of striking a deal with the NHLPA and getting back to work immediately.
Lockout Costs Are Growing Daily
Every day this lockout drags on, teams like the Predators are losing customers. Just yesterday, one of your most visible fans, Codey Holland of Section 303, publicly declared that he was no longer a season ticket holder. Codey has led chants from atop the team's quasi-official superfan section for years, has been featured in a radio ad for one of your key sponsors (pitching other Preds fans on banking services with a team tie-in), and is an active supporter of the team on social networks like Twitter & Facebook.
When you lose a ticket holder like that (or Patten Fuqua of Puckscene.com, who also says he's taken a refund) you're losing the grassroots of your fan base. Yes, the hard-working marketing staff within the Predators organization can probably win many of those folks back, but at what cost? Instead of building on the momentum from the last few seasons, you can look forward to several months of discounts, comped tickets, and phone calls to former customers trying to get them back into Bridgestone Arena. Even with all that effort, it's doubtful that many of these fans will get back to their previous level of financial commitment to the team.
It will be like 2007-2008 all over again, when the franchise's history in Music City hung in the balance. The competition for the local sports-entertainment dollar is only going to get tougher, however. In case you haven't noticed, there's a college football team on the rise just a few blocks down Broadway, with aspirations of stepping up to a higher level in the years ahead.
The Predators just struck a new arena lease deal with the city of Nashville based on the premise that the team is an economic engine for the downtown area, and right now that engine is stalled because the owners & players can't agree on how to proceed. What kind of long-term damage is being done to the team's credibility as a leader in the local business community by this completely unnecessary lockout?
Keep Your Eyes On The Prize
If, during the Board of Governors meeting, an old hand like Boston's Jeremy Jacobs tells a relative newcomer like yourself to wait your turn and let the old guard handle things, that's where you need to take a stand. These aren't the days of the Original Six, when a cozy group of owners could has things out over brandy & cigars.
The modern NHL is a $3.3 billion business, which could be much bigger if it got its collective act together. Bold ideas are needed to make gains on leagues like the NBA, NFL, or Major League Baseball, and that opportunity is being squandered right now.
The NHL should be focused on the big picture - getting an expansion team into Toronto to further tap into an under-served hockey market, getting the Phoenix Coyotes off the league's books ASAP, and maximizing the opportunity for upcoming paydays, like the Canadian broadcast rights agreements which are expiring soon.
It's time to stop being penny-wise and pound-foolish. Overall league revenues have been growing steadily for years now, but the current course of action jeopardizes all that hard work. Get the players away from the negotiating table and back on the ice, where they belong.