It's a couple of weeks before Christmas. A college student drops a toy off at a toy drive on her way to work. On her way out, somebody hands her some tickets and says thank you for your support! The girl looks down, thinks oh yeah, there is an NHL team here now! That could be fun...The girl doesn't know this is one of those moments that you have that will change your life as you know it.
The girl goes to the hockey game. Third row from the glass! Wow! The excitement! The chants! The You sucks! The...HATS flying over her head?! What is this?! Why are they throwing hats out there?! The girl has no clue what is going on but knows she is going to come back. The atmosphere is so charged at that moment that even a clueless girl like her knows it's special and she must witness it again.
By now you realize I'm not talking about the "couple of weeks before Christmas" 2012 because there currently is no hockey. There are no clueless girls going to their first hockey game in 30 cities across the league. There are no moments when clueless girls become lifetime fans. There are no chants. There are no hockey family gatherings. There is no hockey.
I went to a concert last night and heard a guy playing Christmas carols as I walked to the arena. That moment was when it hit me. How many times have I made this walk to the arena and heard the same Christmas carols? This year is different though. I'm not walking to a game. I haven't walked to a game in 7 months. I feel like my family that I haven't seen in 7 months has told me they don't want me to come home for the holidays. They are arguing. Instead of trying to come to an agreement so we can all be together, they've decided money is more important.
Before you say I'm taking this lockout too personally, believe me...I'm not. I know this is not personal. It's business. However, it wouldn't be a business if it wasn't personal to your fans. I have just watched the latest in a string of speeches that all say "We just want to get out there for the fans." No. You don't. I'm beginning to think you really don't care about the fans. That is a very dangerous feeling for you to start instilling.
Both parties go on national media outlets and "talk trash" about the other one and then expect them to be amiable to you the next time you meet. Guess what. People usually aren't that magnanimous. You've tried big groups. You've tried small groups. You've tried mediators. Why not try involving the people you say you most want to protect, the fans? I'm not saying that would make any difference. I'm sure it wouldn't. I understand that you want to make as much money as you can. At least a fan panel could maybe make you remember how much you're losing though. When you start putting feelings in fans' heads that they're nobodies, they become nobodies because they stop coming to see you. They stop spending collective millions of dollars to come see you. To rejoice with you. To be angry or sad with you. Because those are things families do together. However, the nobodies are starting to not care anymore. You're becoming more like relatives than family. The ones that you might go see when they're in town. But you also might not go out of your way to do so. That's what your greed is doing. It's making you lose.
Oh. What happened to that clueless girl you ask? Well, that was 11 years ago. She went to as many games as her budget would allow through the years. She saw more hat tricks (Yes. She learned the name.) She always got that same feeling every time she saw one. She took many friends who became hooked themselves. She got season tickets. They got season tickets. They took friends who then got season tickets. They have all spent thousands of dollars to support their family. Because that's what families do. She loves all of her hockey family, both the ones she cheers with and the ones she cheers for.
This Christmas is different though. There is no hockey. It's up to both of you to change that.