"NHL players were talking tough about the upcoming lockout at the recently concluded All-Star Game in Minnesota. Some of them went so far as to say, “We’ll stay out a year or more if we have to.”
The players’ union has figured out how to twist union law, originally intended to protect industrial workers and farm hands, to jack up salaries to catastrophic levels. Bettman, meanwhile, is single-handedly ruining the game in an ill-fated attempt to woo a contract out of American TV networks, and chasing away legions of regular customers (i.e., die-hard fans) in the process.
What we’re left with are skyrocketing ticket prices and an on-ice product not worth the price of admission.
Look at the changes mentioned above. Most of them are actually roll backs of Bettman’s bad decisions in the last decade. It begs the question: What is it going to take to get good leadership at the top of the NHL?
And we mean both on the corporate side and the union side.
Half the league is currently experiencing a huge drop-off in attendance. For a league whose No. 1 supplier of revenue is still the fans at the gate, that’s ruinous. The attendance drops off not because of over-expansion into southern markets, and it’s not because Americans don’t like hockey.
It’s because ticket prices are too high, and when fans do shell out the money, the games, quite frankly, stink.
Hockey’s problems are not nearly as complicated as the commissioner and union would have you believe. Simply return the game to its pre-Bettman orientation and the on-ice product will correct itself.
As for the player salaries, that’s simple too. SFM believes the league should lock the players out and replace them on the ice. Demand only two things: An end to gaurenteed contracts by the inclusion of a buy-out clause, and a return to free agency at age 32. There’s just no sense in having a lockout without replacement players. Trust me, something wonderful happens when spoiled millionaires stop getting checks and see other players wearing their uniforms. The NFL proved that 20 years ago and have had little trouble since.
Plus, the league thrived for nearly a century because it rewarded its franchises for developing players. For the replacement games, reduce the ticket prices 90% and make your money selling popcorn and beer. The guarenteed contract is the boogey monster that no one has the nerve to confront. Allowing a team to rectify a mistake while at the same time retaining its players will put the financial side of the ledger back into balance. Once that is accomplished, and the lock out is over, the league can raise ticket prices comensorate with expenses and tickets will only cost a fraction of what they cost now.
The union will knuckle under to these demands, but only if fans are able to continue going to games. Remember, fans pay to see the emblem on the front of the jersey, not the name on the back. And that is simply because the names change but the emblem stays the same.
In it’s December 30th issue, The Hockey News named its 100 most influential people in the sport. First and second were Gary Bettman and union boss Bob Goodenow respectively. Down at lowly 100 was “Joe Fan.” “Remember,” says THN, ‘It’s the fans billions players and owners are fighting over. Baseball fans threatening abandonment won their first non work stoppage in three decades.” And they are right. Hockey fans need to take matters into their own hands and take back their game before it’s too late. E-mail your GMs, team owners and local hockey writers and tell’m to adopt the SFM plan!
It’s time to Dump Bettman. Dump high salaries and high-ticket prices, and return the game to its 1990 configuration. The game was fine until Gary Bettman broke it.
In his resignation speech, he will owe us an apology. "
I'm intrigued that fans apparently don't think replacement player games would be a scream...