We're all responding to the NHL lockout in various and sundry ways. Some people are vowing to not buy jerseys and merchandise for the duration of it and probably for the duration of whatever season there is. Some folks have asked for their season ticket money back. Some have sworn up and down that they're done with the league; that they're tired of the work stoppages and the squabbling -- that all of this has tarnished their enjoyment of the teams that the fans were so dedicated to just a few months ago.
The turning on the teams -- teams that some fans have cheered for decades -- is something that I find disheartening. The inability to separate the current lockout from years of personal enjoyment of these teams has been a common theme. It's not "forgive and forget," and it's not "forgive, but still remember what happened to tick you off." It's causing some fans to take things extremely personally, and it's causing some interesting reactions from people.
Take Redditor mrbitterguy. He posted his missive "today i changed my mind about the nhl lockout [sic]" on /r/hockey, and so far it's gotten 589 upvotes. It's got some choice language, so it's NSFW. Here's an edited taste:
with the realization that the owners plan to scuttle the winter classic next week that has all changed. now i want to burn it all down.
F*** THIS F***ING LEAGUE AND ALL THE F***ING DOUCHEBAG OWNERS AND ESPECIALLY F*** THAT DEMENTED OOMPA LOOMPA LAWYER, F*** THEM IN THEIR F***ING ***ES WITH IODINE DIPPED CHAINSAWS.
Well, sir, tell us how you really feel.
Seriously, though, while we might get irritated with Bettman and hate him with a hate that burns with the fire of a thousand suns, I'm fairly sure that anything involving chainsaws hasn't crossed our minds.
The Oompa Loompa part, I am not proud to say, has in fact crossed my mind several times.
Regardless, and I'm not telling anyone how to feel, but a response like mrbitterguy's seems a bit extreme. Cries that the NHL should fold and that people don't need NHL hockey are interesting to me. Is going to a minor league game, or a junior game, or a college game as much fun? Tell me how different the atmosphere is and how hard it can be to get behind those teams. Tell me the quality of the game doesn't impact your enjoyment of it.
I have seen stories on both Reddit and in Puck Daddy's The Vent features of people upset that family traditions are falling by the wayside. That makes perfect sense -- I miss going to Blues games with my mother around her birthday -- but some are going as far as to imply that this is the center of their family activities; that they can't relate to children, parents, and other family members without NHL hockey. That, to me, seems exceedingly extreme.
The lockout isn't meant as a personal affront to anyone. While it's insulting to think that the NHL views fans as sheeple (and they pretty much do), the fans themselves have to remember that there is literally no personal component in this for the owners and for the league. It's business. Your family traditions are collateral damage; that's just what happens. Will the people in the league care? No. Will they care about extreme rants about how much you hate everyone and want them to die in a fire? Probably not.
Those extreme rants are attention. Bad press is still press, right? If you're really upset with the league, just do this: ignore them. Martin Brodeur's picking up on the response of fans who feel this way, and the impact's stronger than people who have a screw or two loose.
“I just came back from Montreal and I was surprised how it wasn’t talked about much by the fans,” he said. “In New Jersey, it’s even worse. People have kind of forgotten about us a little bit and that’s not a good thing. This should be a prime conversation for people who are sports fans to worry about what’s going on and right now they have kind of forgotten about it. That’s not a good sign. I don’t like that at all.”
Brodeur has hit upon the only thing that works as far as making an impact on a product: don't care about it. Ignore it. No press, no complaining one way or the other. As a fan, if you're angry, the best thing you can do to get the league's attention is to turn that anger into apathy. The NHL will follow the money; if they think people don't care, that's fewer people who are coming back to them after the lockout's over. They figure the angry people still care, which is why they're ticked off. The anger will fade, and they'll come back.
But apathy? That will take a lot of work on the league's part to get rid of, and will result in a long term loss of revenue for the league. A business doesn't want that. They want your attention.
How about, instead, you get theirs?