Found August 24, 2012 on Blue Seat Blogs:
PLAYERS: Gary Bettman
TEAMS: New York Rangers

The past few days of the CBA negotiations have been worrisome to say the least. Wednesday’s big meeting was canceled after the head honchos met in the morning, which was tough to take as anything but negative. On top of that, the meetings yesterday were met with nothing but another quote about how the owners and the NHLPA were still far apart and that both sides have a fundamental disagreement on the current state of the NHL.

But that’s not the troubling part. The troubling part is a quote from Gary Bettman pulled by Mark Masters of TSN (s/t to Becky for pulling this info for me):

‘We recovered last time bc we have the world’s greatest fans’

And therein lies the biggest problem. That quote alone suggests that the owners are not playing by the rules. The owners are using the loyalty of the fans, our loyalty and hard-earned cash, as a bargaining chip.

We’ve been covering every major point of the CBA negotiations here, including the UnfollowNHLSeptember15 movement. And while this little tidbit might not seem like a major moment in the negotiations, it’s one tiny sentence that packs a powerful punch. The NHLPA cannot negotiate when the owners are willing to use fan loyalty as their biggest bargaining chip.

Two weeks ago I ripped both sides for the games they were playing. Now it appears that the owners are not even concerned about the fans and the future of the game. Clearly, they fully expect the fans to come back in droves, the way we did after the first lockout. And as much as we hate to say it, and as much as it pains me to say this, we will definitely come back if there’s another lockout.

But while the hardcore fans like us will come back, the NHL is playing a very dangerous game with the fair weather fans. The league took a giant leap forward in a non-traditional market when the Kings won the Stanley Cup. LA was never a poor team, but they certainly saw ticket sales jump after their Cup run. The last time LA saw a boon like this, some guy named Wayne was traded there.

Aside from having one of the biggest national markets see a drastic increase in revenues, they have another team in perhaps the largest US market that is now considered a legitimate Cup contender for years to come. That of course is the Rangers. New York is the biggest market in the US when it comes to hockey. Hockey was finally becoming water cooler talk in the office, and now they risk losing those fans. This doesn’t even include the US markets in Boston, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Chicago, or Detroit.

Side note: Obviously I’m not including the Canadian markets, as there’s no real concern in losing fans in Canada. Canadian fans aren’t fair weather fans.

The fact that loyalties are being used as a negotiating tactic is appalling. We never thought either side would stoop so low.


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