Thursday, December 6, 2012

Lockout About to End, NHL Must Acknowledge Faithful Fanz

By Jason Klau

I recently made a quick post about some possible good news coming from the NHL in regards to the lockout. According to reports, the owners met for hours last night to break down the proposal offered by the NHLPA and it looks like (again, according to reports) a deal could be done.

I may be speaking too soon, but, "FINALLY! YES! WE SURVIVED!"

As great as this news (hopefully) is though, I still feel the NHL has a lot to answer for with us fans. So what can the league and the owners do to make up for the pain and suffering they've caused?

To start, I'll take us back to 2005, when the NHL was getting ready to come back after a one-year absence due to the 2004-2005 full-season lockout. A 14-year-old little me was excited to see his favorite sport come back, and just as excited at my Rangers newest marketing ploy: A good ol' fashioned ticket giveaway. Thousands of fans lined up outside the box office, my father and I among them. Rangers great Adam Graves as well as one of the most promising Rangers prospects at the time, Hugh Jessiman, and goalie of the future Al Montoya were on hand to sign autographs and talk to fans. Everyone who came that day got at least a pair of tickets to a game. As we were a bit early compared to most, we got three free games, and even bought some others. Hey, at $20 a ticket with some freebies who wouldn't right? I remember one of three free games was an early-season matchup with the Atlanta Thrashers. It turned out to be one of Henrik Lundqvist's first appearances and was when he solidified his starting job. Quite a memory for a young hockey fan like myself at the time.

This is just one thing the NHL needs to do to get people excited about the league again. In 2005, disgruntled fans who toughed it out and stuck with the team were rewarded.

Now, at least here in New York, it'll cost you about $100 for a pair of "cheap seats" and that's not something this hockey fan is willing to pay to a bunch of owners who just locked us out. I doubt I'm alone in this regard either. While stronger market teams will, regardless of what they do with tickets, still likely herd their sheep - I'm sorry, bring fans back into the seats - small and medium market teams need to give an incentive to get people back inside.

In addition to giving us fans a little break on these tickets, the league can do some other things. How about some free Center Ice packages for cable? Or at the very least NHL Network? Or both? Right now I get the MLB and NBA networks for free...why not hockey? After taking away a third of the Rangers season the least you can do is give me the other half of the other teams schedule (playoffs too please)!

The NHL has a lot of work to do to make up ground with its fan base, and with casual sports fans everywhere. Getting a deal done without missing a full season is a start but it must do more to get back in the good graces of the consumers. Throwing a bone to the fans is a great way to say "we're sorry." It's certainly better than painting, "Thank You Fans!" on the ice surface you overcharge fans to look at.

Editor's Note: That's cold, bro. Literally and figuratively. By the way, NHL, you forgot the comma - I'm sure we forgot a few commas here on SBz anyways - I'm jk. But seriously, if the NHL does come back before Christmas, they'll have a lot to live up to with how successful the NBA was last year coming off their lockout. The NBA still managed to have an All-Star Game and an unbelievable Finals. Can the NHL mimmic that success? Will the NHL reinstate the now-cancelled All-Star Game in Columbus? What about the Winter Classic? That would be a great way to win fans back. And a great way to make even more money than they were making pre-lockout, just like the NBA is doing...