NHL fans are some of the most passionate sports fans around, yet we have suffered through two lockouts that have shortened one season and cancelled another. We are in the midst of the third lockout in 18 years as owners and players squabble over a new collective bargaining agreement. Yet as the true stakeholders of the league, the fans have absolutely no say in what happens in the league. Both lockouts just happen to fall under the tenure of Commissioner Gary Bettman. While the greed by the owners and players have contributed to this dysfunction within the league, it is the lack of leadership shown by Commissioner Bettman that has ultimately resulted in both lockouts occurring. Now, if an agreement is not reached by September 15, the fans will suffer once again.
As a fan, I consider myself, as well as all other fans of the NHL and NHL teams, to be a stakeholder. Without us, the players do not get paid. Without us, the owners do not get paid. Without us, the game does not thrive. Yet I seemingly have no say in any decision made by the league. Therefore, it is time that the fans – the ultimate stakeholders of the league – take matters into their own hands.
If the September 15 deadline passes with no new collective bargaining agreement and Commissioner Bettman stands by his word that the lockout will occur, I will no longer watch another NHL game on any network or online broadcast; I will no longer attend another NHL game; I will no longer purchase books, merchandise, memorabilia or any other product with the NHL logo on it; I will not dedicate a single penny of my money to the NHL UNTIL (and only until) Commissioner Bettman resigns from his position. Most importantly, I will encourage as many diehard hockey fans as possible to completely shut out the NHL in the same manner as the league has repeatedly shut out its stakeholders. Given the status in popularity compared to other major professional sports in the United States (i.e. NFL, MLB, etc.), as well as other options to follow hockey (AHL, college, junior, KHL, etc.), I do not think the league and team owners would want this to occur.
As loyal fans, we have welcomed back the league with open arms after each of the last two lockouts, naively thinking that all issues between the league and its players had been resolved. We will not make that same mistake again.