On October 7, five days before the Nashville Predators were scheduled to face the Detroit Red Wings in the first game of the 2012-13 season (a game which had already been canceled at that point), I tweeted this:
December 15 is my cutoff. If there’s no @nhl / @nhlpa deal by December 15, I’m taking back my money from @predsnhl and never going back.
— Zack Bennett (@ZackTN) October 7, 2012
In full disclosure, I thought that was an extremely conservative deadline. After all, I’d been hearing hockey writers all summer say that everything would probably be resolved by Thanksgiving and blades would hit the ice around Christmas.
Well, here we are – December 17, with no end to the lockout anywhere on the horizon – and I don’t make empty threats. Today, I went to Bridgestone Arena with my season ticket package in hand, and I gave it back.
I’ve sat here the past 3 months and refreshed Twitter to see Pierre LeBrun or Bob McKenzie or Chris Johnston or Renaud Levoie or Katie Strang or any other hockey reporter I don’t normally follow tell me that the two sides met in an undisclosed location and nothing came of the meeting. I’ve heard three times now that the NHL & NHLPA were “dangerously close” to resolving the issues, only to have it all fall apart at the eleventh hour. Now I’ve had enough. I’ve had enough of Gary Bettman. I’ve had enough of Don Fehr. And, for now, I’m done.
It was difficult. It was difficult to finally put closure to all those hopes of soon being back in Section 303, Row C, Seats 1 & 2. It was difficult to walk into that dark, empty Bridgestone Arena foyer and think about all the fun memories and all the new friends I made last season. It was difficult to look someone in the eye – someone who has exactly zero to do with the labor disagreement – and tell him that you’re essentially taking a few hundred bucks out of his pocket because a group of millionaires and billionaires can’t decide that enough is enough.
When I dropped by the office, I spoke to my former ticket representative, who now has moved on to another position within the Predators organization, and had nothing but good things to say. The Preds have been a wonderful corporate citizen, providing top-notch athletic entertainment at a decent price, and giving back to many charities in the area through its foundation. I know the lockout and all the crap surrounding it is not this organization’s fault. They’ve been proactive in engaging the season ticket holders during the lockout by offering fun activities and discounts at local merchants. Yes, technically, the Predators are one of 30 franchises complicit in preventing its labor force from performing… but we all know that everyone in that building would take the NHLPA’s latest offer, and would rather be preparing for tomorrow night’s game against Tampa Bay, while owners from some of the larger-market teams refuse to waver.
This was not something I wanted to do, but it was something that I felt I had to do. I had to do it to prove a point. I had to do it to inspire others to do the same. I had to do it to prove to myself and others that I’m not one to make empty threats. I know that Gary Bettman, Don Fehr, and everybody else whose name we’ve heard these past three months will never know that I did what I did. I know that by taking my money away from the Predators, I’m directly hurting my account rep and only marginally affecting this franchise’s profits & losses. I know it doesn’t even put a dent in the broken machine that is the NHL. But I had to do it. I had to do it because, as a fan, it’s all I can do.
It shrinks the pie for the NHL & NHLPA a bit, and that’s what they’ve lost sight of. They don’t grasp the fact that there are more Zack Bennetts out there. I’m not the only one doing this. More and more fans around the league are canceling their season tickets, because we’re tired of the greed. $2053.36 may not be enough to close the “hockey-related revenue” gap, but it sure means a lot to me and my wife, and we’re going to find a much better use for that money.
I fulfilled the first part of my threat – about taking my money back – and I definitely won’t be there for the first game back, whenever that may be. Will I hold up the second part of my threat? Will I ever be back? I really don’t know. That remains to be seen. But every day that goes by, I’m finding new uses for my expendable income that doesn’t involve the Nashville Predators and the National Hockey League. The really sad part: the league and the players don’t realize that there are 17,000+ other people doing the same things in every city in the league.