I am a hockey fan. This probably is not news to you. I’ve been one for more years than I care to admit. It is why I watch the games, why I write this blog. When I arrived in Washington in January 1984 from Michigan, the first order of business after getting the keys to my apartment and getting the utilities turned on was to get hockey tickets. The Washington Capitals became my team.
Being a Caps fan would mean a lot of things over the years starting back then – Patrick Division rivalries; watching “The Plumbers” become the personality of a hard-working, lunch pail kind of team; a four-overtime gut punch in a Stanley Cup Game 7; an overtime winner in a Game 7; the annual disappointments of losing to the Pittsburgh Penguins; cheering on Rod Langway, Dale Hunter, and Mike Gartner; cheering on Lou Franceschetti, Steve Konowalchuk, and Kelly Miller. Peter Bondra and Alex Ovechkin. Bryan Murray and Bruce Boudreau. I’ve seen about 350 players come through Washington in the years I have been following the Caps. For 29 years almost to the day the Washington Capitals have been the team I rooted for above all others in DC, and in time, in all sports.
Early last Sunday morning the NHL and its players association came to terms – finally – on a framework for a new labor agreement. Players are returning to NHL rinks from Russia, Sweden, the AHL, or from wherever they are working out to prepare for a late-starting season. Fans will be returning to those rinks to cheer their favorites in hopes of seeing them raise the Stanley Cup.
One fan won’t be back, though.
After 29 years, after giving the matter far more thought than it deserved, and even though I am thrilled that the best players in the world will once more take the ice, I realize that being one of “the world’s greatest fans” merely means I can be taken for granted, played for a sucker, and given no respect by those who depend on fans like me for the health of their game.
My days as a season ticket holder are over.
I am sick of NHL ownership holding a season hostage merely because it can. This is the third time I’ve seen a lockout in the NHL. In 1994 the issue was small market revenue and who should pay for propping it up – players, by tying salaries to revenue, or teams, through revenue sharing. In 2004, the argument was that the player compensation system was broken, crippling the ability of small market teams to compete. This year, we were right back where we started. You did not need a map and a flashlight to understand that the problem was not, as the Commissioner opined, that “we believe that we are paying the players more than we should be.”
It was that the league put hockey in cities that quite frankly cannot support it or that have turned their backs on it. This was not the players’ problem. It was the league’s problem and that of its ownership. This lockout was on them and on them alone. But in a callous effort to have others – players, for the most part – pay for the sins of NHL and club management, folks whose livelihoods depend on hockey suffered. Fans who really are the greatest fans in the world did not suffer in the same way, perhaps, but their disappointment was deeply felt. Perhaps that disappointment will manifest itself this time in fans turning away from the sport, or at least the NHL brand of it. Sad it might be, but it will be what those who are the stewards of the game deserve.
I am tired of NHL ownership’s arrogance as expressed by their hired mouthpiece. Gary Bettman commenting that “we have the greatest fans in the world” is merely boilerplate hot air, a throwaway line that speaks volumes about what the league thinks. It drips with contempt for those fans, suggesting that there is no level of abuse they will endure that will push them away from the rink. Three work stoppages under this Commissioner in 18 years? Hah! They’ll come back.
There is the misleading tease. Before the last lockout, the Commissioner said, “with the right economic system, we can take the pressure off of ticket prices, and I believe with the right economic system, many, if not most of our teams, will actually lower ticket prices. I believe we owe it to our fans to have affordable ticket prices.”
Ownership got the economic system they wanted in 2005, down to every dotted “i” and crossed “t.” Did ticket prices go down? According to Team Marketing Report the average ticket price for the Washington Capitals went up 7.4 percent in 2009, 24.2 percent in 2010, and 12.3 percent in 2011. Another hefty price increase was in store for the 2012-2013 season. This time around, the league doesn’t even go through the pretense that ticket prices will be made “affordable” after yet another lockout. This time, it seems, the fans are owed nothing.
I am tired of being treated like an idiot. There are owners who will say, “our season-ticket pricing has been moderate when compared with others around the league…we estimate that our average ticket price will be in the middle of the pack. More importantly to you, however, our season-ticket pricing will be in the lower half of the league.” More important to me? More important to me are the double-digit percent price increases that have become normal. It is not as if I can be a cost-conscious consumer and say, “well, maybe I’ll just buy a season ticket package for one of those teams with lower prices.” The market choice I have here is purchasing a Washington Capitals season ticket or none. So stop with the silly arguments about having lower prices than the Toronto Maple Leafs or the New York Rangers. They aren’t relevant.
In the end, it was all so pointless. The lockout became a bubble in which the two sides argued over what would become comparatively small sums of money, given the revenue the game generates, without a concern in the world for those outside the bubble who actually pay the freight – the fans – and those who depend on hockey for their livelihoods – small businesses, vendors, arena staff, and more. It became a death match in which the sides, but the league far more than the players, were more willing until the last possible moment to blow up a season than entertain the thought or perception that they could “lose” to the other side. No one – I repeat, no one – was thinking of “the good of the game” in this pathetic affair.
Once upon a time, I wrote a long essay about my relationship to NHLhockey and the Washington Capitals in particular. The passion for hockey is still there, but not so much for the NHL. The National Hockey League has cultivated a subtle idea in the minds of hockey fans. The league would like you to believe that there is equivalence between being a “real” hockey fan and purchasing their product to watch in person and their merchandise to wear at those games. If you’re not attending NHL games or buying NHL team jerseys, you are some lesser specie of fan. Nothing could be further from the truth. One can be a rabid fan without ever buying a ticket, purchasing a jersey, or contributing one thin dime to any of the league’s affiliated enterprises.
I am a fan of hockey. I will continue to be a fan of hockey. But I am not a fan of the NHL as a corporate enterprise. I root for the Washington Capitals. I will continue to do so and to write in this space about them. But I do not root for Monumental Sports and Entertainment. Hockey fans should acknowledge the difference between competitive hockey played on a rink and corporate hockey played at a conference table. You can watch games and cheer in the company of friends at a local bar (whose owner – perhaps one hurt very much by this lockout – probably respects your patronage much more than does the NHL); you can do so with your fellow fans at each others' homes. Or, if you just want to root in solitude, you can do so in a comfortable chair where the beer is colder and the food is cheaper. You can still be a rabid fan of the sport without lining the pockets of the league or its clubs while being abused or insulted every half dozen years or so for the privilege.
Fellow hockey fans, it is time to face an inconvenient truth about your position in the world of NHL hockey. You are a wallet with feet, a credit card number, nothing more. Neither the league nor its clubs have any consideration for you outside of that. Ignore that at your peril or at your profound disappointment. The next time a league official says you are “the greatest fans on earth,” know it for what it is, a throwaway piece of rhetoric. The next time a club owner says he values, appreciates, or cherishes you, it is prelude to his trying to pry more money out of your wallet. And as for bottom lines, there is but one bottom line here, the owners’.
Because in the end, sports is a business. That is not just a turn of phrase, it is a reality. Sports has always been thus, but it has more often than not been accompanied by at least the notion that a sports franchise was a community enterprise, that one was a steward of that enterprise as well as an owner. These days, that has changed. A sports franchise is merely an asset to be managed by people whose interest doesn’t seem to stray far from, well, asset management. The NHL has reduced itself in this process to an elemental expression of that fact. In that respect – and perhaps in that respect alone – they are like one of the major professional sports.
OK, fine. It’s a business. As a member of that business the Washington Capitals are asking me to buy a product. It is a product that has provided a lot of thrills over the years and its share of disappointments, too; misfortunes that I have set aside to return to the stands because I do have a passion for hockey. The current state of the product the Capitals want to sell me has evidenced little improvement over the past several years and has shown itself to be unreliable in its availability. Yet it is one for which I am being asked to pay higher and higher…and higher prices, year after year…after year. If it was just that, though, I’d be back. The pull of hockey has been, and remains, that strong.
Let me repeat that…the pull of hockey has been, and remains, that strong. After all, I had already decided last spring to renew for this season, despite the too-frequent on-ice disappointments with my team and even the sticker shock in ticket price increases from year to year. But in the midst of this lockout, I found myself realizing that I just don’t want to do business with these people anymore. Arrogance, unreliability, and an utter lack of sensitivity or appreciation to those who pay the bills do not make for a trusted business partner.
You, dear reader, might think this rant is one-sided, that there is blame to be shared by the players and their Players Association. I am not happy with some of their tactics, but in the end, one party was responsible for a lockout, and it has become the default position of the league upon the expiration of collective bargaining agreements. In the assignment of blame for the state of NHL hockey and this lockout, the scales tip heavily on the ownership side of the scale.
I have no delusions that the rant of one unhappy hockey fan is going to create a groundswell of opposition to what the NHL is doing. It will not register not at all in Washington. After all, the Caps are selling out the joint, and there is a “waiting list” for tickets. Enjoy it while it lasts. Because the Caps might be the “in” thing in DC for now, but a lot of those fans that jumped on board when they started winning won’t miss a beat in jumping off when they stop or when they are overtaken by other local teams, such as the up-and-coming Nationals or a Redskins team that has an electrifying rookie in Robert Griffin III.
In the end, I can't even be angry, just sad. Sad in the knowledge that in almost 29 years as a fan attending games when I could, then as a partial plan holder, and then as a season ticket holder, I was there when the Caps were the lunch-pail team working hard and busting tail, despite the playoff disappointments. I was there when the Caps were frustrated year after year, first by the Islanders, then by the Penguins. I was there when the Caps tried to do the right thing and trade for a superstar in Jaromir Jagr, then when they traded Jagr away to start to rebuild their team. I was there going into and coming out of The Great Lockout of 2004-2005, when the Caps tried hard but weren't very good. I was there when the Caps couldn't draw flies. I was there when they made themselves competitive again. I was not alone. A lot of season ticket holders, fierce in their loyalty, could tell a similar story here in Washington and in a lot of other cities around the league.
But now, I find that for a few dollars, or pride, or just being unable to stomach the very idea of "losing" to the help in a labor dispute, the league could not return that loyalty for their legions of season ticket holders and fans. The league seemed intent to follow a script in which they would get around to a settlement, secure in the knowledge that whatever the delay, fans would be back. Well, when the NHL locked out its players, it locked out its fans, too. The difference between one and the other is that the players will be back. And even though I suppose most fans will be back, I won’t be, not as a season ticket holder. One might argue that I’m turning my back on the NHL, but the fact is the league turned its back on me and thousands of other fans when it decided to go down this road one more time.
I’m sick, I’m tired, and I’m done.
If Caps ownership wanted to throw fans like us a bone (I am also a STH), they could at least hold the line on ticket prices for one year. I predict there is a 0% chance of that happening. Here's what the NHL should mandate that each team paint on the ice for opening night: "Welcome back, suckers."
Sad that it's come to this, but the Lords of Hockey have lost the plot...the steadily rising ticket prices (to an extent unknown at any other DC-area sports team) combined with the federal pay freeze forced me off the Caps' STH rolls in 2011, and this will no doubt continue.
And the NHL, outside of its hardcore markets in Canada, Minnesota et al, is a severely damaged brand that will take a long time to recover (and in some wonky markets such as Columbus, may not recover). What else can one say about a league that not only has been flirting with its own irrelevance, but actually seems to be embracing such irrelevance? Staying off the radar like they have now and like they did in 1994-95 and 2004-05 is not good for marketing.
I'm still a Caps supporter, but at a distance now.
Hear Hear!!! I totally agree. I came very close to cancelling our season tickets as well this year. My only concession was that I was sharing them with someone else for this season. When it comes to the owners, let's be honest, it's about the buck, the bottom dollar and that is all they really care about. It's not really the fans, although we are the ones that lines their pockets. Our prices will not go down ever! It will be economy, or what ever reason they feel to give. I think the LA Kings were lame with their give back to the community by donating 1 mil to 4 diff charities. the charities don't buy all those season tickets. the fans do.(dont get me wrong, donating to charities are good but.) there's another team offering free food. Give us something more substantial, how about a decrease in pricing, how about signed jerseys from our favorite players. Let's really make it up to the fans. I was upset last year when they installed "mini" suites at vz. Just another way to charge more money on the premise of bringing in more fans. This is a joke as now those above these areas who used to rely on looking between the rails can't, and those who sit right behind have to constantly remind the people to please sit, it's not a real suite, we would like to see the game too and paid good money as well.
Sorry I'm ranting, just another upset fan, who's torn between hockey being back and the callousness of the owners.
y'all r suckers. come May nobody will even care that there was lockout. By October the lockout will be a distant memory.
The Hockey News, had a great article on how the owners can make it up to fans, its a good read if you have the time.
Very great argument and it is a shame it's come to this.
Selfishly, I was very glad to read from all of this that you will be continuing to blog because I'd miss this place if it went dark.
Here's to hoping you can find the enjoyment and keep this place going strong for long to come.
So sorry to have you join our ranks, Peerless. Thanks for expressing our feelings at giving up our STH account after 14 years better than we ever could. -JW
Amen! I'm a caps fan in exile in Colorado, so I have no tickets to give up. What I've given up is any and all merchandise. no new caps, shirts or sweaters. Im not unter the impression that they'll miss my dollars-- but they aren't getting them.
I long ago felt the sting of how the CAPS treat us so-called fans. As a holder of the once available Weekend Package, my wife and I had enjoyed, or suffered through, many years of watching the CAPS. We supported them when they really stunk and when they became a team to reckon with. However, as soon as they became a very good team, we were pushed out of our seats by a management that only wanted more money, not loyal fans. It now costs more to sit in the top row than it did to sit in the lower bowl just a few years ago. I refuse to pay that and will enjoy the games in front of my own TV from now on. Better yet, I'll enjoy watching local high school and college hockey more often, if given the choice!
Well said!! This sport is supposed to be fun and a release from everyday life. What the NHL continues to do, to the fans is unacceptable. While I don't reside in D.C. it has been "my team" since the days of Mike Palmateer.
This lockout feels different to me this time around. I will watch games and continue to watch my local Major Junior team, but I will not be making my annual trip to Montreal to watch my favourite Caps nor will I be purchasing anymore team merchandise. I feel like you in that I have been taken advantage of. I almost feel like a jilted lover I guess. So I will move on, but still have feelings for my past love, but at a distance.
Too bad...still looking forward to your comments and blog regarding the Caps. I'm torn, as my kids love the games and they don't understand all of this, just want their team back.
My family was a charter member season ticket holder. That is 38 years for those counting.
We bailed yesterday.
My husband just brought a good point.
In todays world of technology, we can now sit in the comforts of our home and watch the game as if were there. HDTV, surround sound, foods and drink we like without having to pay the outrageous prices at VZ for either tickets or food/drink.
I'm so glad I got rid of my tickets during this lockout. I won't return to the Verizon Center, not just the Caps, until Ted is gone. In a town with Dan Snyder, it takes quite a bit to be the worst owner around. Sun Can Tan Ted has figured out how to do it. At least Danny Boy doesn't pretend to be something other than the heartless businessman he is.
Now you know how New York Mets fans feel after their management's many failures, and the failure of Major League Baseball to wrest the team from the fraud-happy Wilpon family.
Sad, but very well stated and echoes my sentiments completely. I'm a more recent fan but no less dedicated and I can't get rid of the feeling that giving them our money now, is rewarding them for giving us the middle finger. I'll certainly be happy to continue reading your blog and watching games at home. Thanks!
I commend you on a fine, well-written piece that so accurately articulates the feelings I had as I rode the Thrashers roller coaster for 11 years, and as an NHL fan for longer. I wish your words *would* matter. I wish the owners *did* really care. But as you know all too well, they don't. What they do know is this: the fans will be back. They will always be back. And that fact gives them all the cards.
Even if Atlanta still had a team, I'd watch from the couch.
Best of luck to you.
That completely sums up my feelings as well. I have been a Caps fan since I began watching hockey, and before I ever lived in the area. As soon as I moved to DC I became a STH. That ended the week after this lockout. I had had enough, and didn't want to give Ted or the NHL any more of my money. Watching at home will do just fine.
Absolutely spot on, sir. I'm not just a fan, I even play beer league hockey a couple times a week. And I'm done.
I'm with you Peerless. I dumped my rights as STH after 4 seasons. The pair of nosebleeds i had increased 100% from year 1 to year 4, had I signed on for year 5, it would've been 110%. Enough was enough.
Couple that with rising prices for parking garages around the phone booth, rising prices on puck sodas (less quantity, same price), it became too expensive to go in person for a game.
When your Season Tickets can be purchased on the secondary market for less than what you personally pay as a STH, that was the last straw. Management has clearly out priced their market. I'm done too.
I will continue to watch the Caps from my couch or one of the fine establishments around the phone booth.
Lockout needed to happen. Half the teams are losing revenue, and cap circumvention is bad for the league. Don't tell me that small market teams like Tampa can make it up on licensing revenue because they can't - it's 2% of the revenue of the item. The caps lost $1M last season. That means they'd have to sell 400,000 jerseys @ $125 a pop or 2,000,000 hats at $25 a pop.
your logo is really ugly, there's no way you would be able to sell more than 20 of those, and they'd have to be to color blind folks.
People will say that it doesn't matter what the revenue is because an owner can sell it and still make a profit. Tell me what investment sells for more money than it was purchased for when it starts perpetually losing money year after year.
Get over it man, I know you're pissed, we all are. But look at it this way it's the first time in 7 years that the Caps have been in the hunt for the president's trophy in January.
NOW, if you said you were going to stop following hockey because the Caps can't beat the Rangers, then I'd understand. I mean, it's got to be soul crushing to lose to the Rangers at the end of the season. I'll bet you wish you could trade Mike Green for Al Iafrate right now.
Couldn't have said it better!!!!
Great story! I agree 100% I really hope this gains traction and some of the NHL brass read it and take it to heart.
I agree wo totally with this, and am dismayed by the lack of fan outrage that this lockout (the 3rd under Bettman) has resulted in. I will try to sell as many of my tickets as possible this year, but when I do go to a game it will NOT be Caps gear, it will NOT be red - what a great marketing ploy for selling merchandise to get us all to Rock the Red; can you say Hockey RElated REvenues? And when I do go I might be wearing a surgical mask, to remind everyone that fans had NO VOICE in this.
THanks for posting this.
Please, everyone, STOP WEARING RED! Send a message.
But, still, Go Caps (my addiction is terminal)
Peerless, this summarizes my feelings exactly, except that I can't take the same step and separate from my season tickets. The only thing you don't mention, and probably because you are too much of a gentleman to do so, is the surprisingly direct role Leonsis played in this lockout. A member of the Executive Committee, and an apparent hardliner according to many reports. In one quick and curt email to Caps fans("this will be my last comment on the lockout") he went from a fan friendly, accessible owner to a Bettman foot soldier, or at least it so appeared. And he was tone-deaf in continuing to tweet and post hockey-related items even as the lockout continued.
Even with the end of the lockout, his communication with fans seems to ring hollow. Maybe I'm just too biased against him now, but to me his comments seem to say "I didn't have much to do with the lockout, I was hurting as much as you were, so let's just put it all behind us." I feel like he thinks he can just market his way out of this, and maybe he's right, but the aura of being the fan-friendly owner I think is gone forever.
Again, my frustration with the lockout may be reading too much into things, but that's what I get out of his comments and I find it infuriating . . . which brings me back to the same place as your post except that I'm not breaking up with the person who cheated on me. That makes me pathetic in a way, doesn't it? And that just pisses me off all over again.
An excellent diatribe, Peerless! It could not have been better said.
On a little different tangent, I have been further irritated by the NHL/Capitals on two more fronts this week. First, is the fact that it has been six days since the agreement has been reached and they still have not posted a schedule. As a continuing STH (at least for awhile, anyways), it might be nice to know more than a few days in advance when home games will be played. Even just the announcement of the first week of games would have shown a little consideration toward their fans. But then, that is one of your points. The NHL could not care less about inconvenience to their fans.
Second, the Capitals have now converted to a STH electronic card that holds all season tickets. No more printed tickets that can be distributed to seatmates. If we cannot all arrive together at one time, we have to spend our valuable time dealing with their electronic account, distributing and printing tickets. Invariably, that is going to be several hours of our time (and printer ink) that we have to spend for the privilege of paying double digit annual increases to remain a STH. And when asked the Capitals responses were: “No, we will not print out individual game tickets for you” and “No, we cannot provide an electronic ticket card for each of your seatmates”. Of course they can’t, why should the NHL/Capitals want to make life easier for their fans? Shut up and deal with it, sucker.
Unfortunately, I am growing closer and closer to your final conclusion. It is sad.
Bravo! I've had similar thoughts about Caps ownership, specifically, for years. They want to put on a good show and entertain you, but they were never able to convince me they wanted to win the Cup. If it came along? Great - certainly helps the marketing. But if it doesn't? Oh well, we have cheerleaders and a lot of red jerseys. Woo hoo!
The NHL (ownership) needs to take the opportunity to seriously evaluate itself. Entertainment dollars need to stretch further and there are so many more options available. Why should fans spend this money with the NHL? What makes their product better than anyone else's? Until they do the real soul-searching to create a coherent answer, fans will be left paying the price.
Your personal boycott is meaningless and so are your silly grievances. Find a real problem to care about... You can't honestly think anything is actually going to change because of what you choose to buy/not buy? Way to really stick it to the man bro...
Caps ownership was front and center as a hardline team supporting this lockout. If i were a bruins or caps fan I'd give up as well. supporting these owners is just ridiculous.
Completely agree. My wife and I have been Sharks STH's for 5 years and grew tired of the constant price increases only to be locked out this year. I called my season ticket holder representative in December and asked for my money back. In the mean time, we've been making an effort to visit the restaurants downtown San Jose that we normally would visit during hockey season even though there is no hockey. It's amazing how many of the servers recognize us (even without our jerseys on) and thank us for our patronage.
Your personal boycott is meaningless and so are your silly grievances. Find a real problem to care about... You can't honestly think anything is actually going to change because of what you choose to buy/not buy? Way to really stick it to the man bro...
wow, talk about missing the point entirely
Poor Rangers fans... they truly have no clue, do they?
I guess since the Rangers didn't make the playoffs in '09-'10, that season didn't count. You know, the season the Caps WON the President's Trophy?
And the Caps can't beat the Rangers? I guess 2009 and 2011 don't count for you as well, right?
Speaking of Rangers, never mind that the Caps have basically OWNED the Rangers for most of the last 5 or 6 seasons.
Sure the Rags squeak out a win here and there, and the one recent time they beat the Caps in the playoffs they beat a team that was largely seen as the underdog who STILL took them to 7 games... despite all that off-season spending by Sather.
Rangers... you need to go get your head examined if you think that's a great hockey team.
Great post Peerless, sure, your rant won't mean squat in the grand scheme of things. But for a few moments, you lock in well with what a great majority of long term fans have been thinking.
Ticket prices did go down after "The Great Lockout" of '04-'05, or at least they did in San Jose. They didn't stay down, of course, but that comes with success (and paying players fixed percentages of revenue).
Answer me this: If the local bars appreciate my patronage so much more than the NHL, how come they kick me out after I've bought more drinks than anyone?
It is as if the Peerless has reached into my soul and given voice to its contents. Well said man.
Zeb aka Zeebo
You are not alone, Peerless. I felt the same sadness when we asked for our money back after the first December game was cancelled this year. Nice to have that extra chunk of change in my pocket for Christmas.
I will still watch the Capitals on TV, but it will be a VERY long time before I set foot in a rink, or buy a piece of NHL gear. It's a damn shame, too, because my 2 year old daughter was really looking forward to going to a game this year.
I am a long time Sharks fan, tho not a STH, and like you have had enough. The gimmicks teams are offering as a way to say sorry just doesn't cut it.
Some may say boycotting is a wasted effort. Perhaps, but it's all I have to show my dissatisfaction with the NHL and the owners. I won't be going to any games this season. I'll still be watching the Sharks on tv, just keeping my money where it belongs - with me. So bravo!
HOW TO STICK IT TO MONUMENTAL SPORTS: If you do go to the game at VZ center - Don't buy food or drink at outrageous prices 1) By it beforehand from the hard working people at the restaurants outside OR 2) as I do and will going forward!!! - I take airline bottles of bourbon to mix with a coke if I get it in (ok $5 bucks spent on large coke there if not) and I take my own food. If I get caught or stopped - I toss it, or eat outside. I refuse to pay Ted the outrageous prices inside and have been doing this for the last 7 years. I've saved a bundle.
I can understand the anger. This was a very nasty lockout, to say the least. I'm a long time fan but only a relatively recent STH since I had been so busy raising kids, but with them now grown, I could start going to games again. I'm not ready to cancel my tix yet but if they do another lockout when the next CBA expires, well I'll be reaching retirement age anyhow and won't be able to afford tickets.
For now, I'll wear a KHL jersey to games and not even one that's associated with any past or present member of the Caps. Nope. for a fellow I got attached to, because of following the KHL by default.
You're an excellent writer, Peerless, and it's a shame the Caps have lost you as a customer.
I assure you that you are not the only long-time Caps season ticket holder to cancel. My dad took me to my first game in 1974 and I fell in love -- I was 12. I won't go on and on about the thrills and disappointments -- it would do a disservice to your wonderful piece, but I want you to know you are not alone.
After the last lockout, I didn't renew my season tickets and a Caps called me and asked: "what will it take to get you back?" I said: "Ted pays." At first the Caps rep balked. When he said I was being ridiculous, I said: "wait a minute: you called me. You asked what it would take to get me back. I told you. You can say 'no," YOU are the one who is being ridiculous. I just gave you free market demographic information."
Three weeks later he called back. Ted Leonsis actually wanted to pay for my tickets -- if I paid them as a customer of the Capitals, he would reimburse me. (I have a copy of the cancelled check from him and his wife, Lynn.)
I accepted Ted's check with one caveat: "Do this again -- lockout or strike -- and I am gone."
I cancelled my seats the day this most recent lockout was announced. I told the team that I knew my decision wouldn't make a hill of beans difference to Ted, the team, to OV, the players, Bettman, or the league. And, I predicted: 99% of the fans will come back. But: not me.
In my mind, the only thing more "ridiculous" than the NHL going out every few years on a 'work stoppage"...? Me, coming back behind them. Again and again... and again. After decades with the team, I was done.
Where you and I differ, Peerless: I am no longer a Caps fan or NHL fan. Why? My grandma in Montreal played goalie with phone books strapped to her legs - she was the youngest in a family of seven boys. Our extended family has had Canadiens tickets since they started playing. The Stanley Cup was everything.
Today's owners are, as you say, stewards of the game. And nothing in hockey is more sacred, to me, than the game. You can't get to The Cup without The Games.
In the end, for me, it came down to 2 things:
1. If the league doesn't care about how sacred its games are, why should I?
2. Why continue to make a priority out of something that continually treats me as an option?
Seven years ago, I told Ted and his reps: "do this again, and I am gone." Turns out only one of us in that conversation kept his word.
I'll continue to read your blog, Peerless. I've always said it's the best. Today, it was better writing on the fan's view of the lockout than I've read -- anywhere.
And I'm with you: I'm not angry. But: it's sad. And none of it was necessary.
Well said and I agree with you. I to a season ticket holder of more than 10 years I am no longer. I too am sick and tired of the money hungry individuals.....my pockets are not that deep this was a luxury for me a place to go an enjoy a sport from an early age. I hope they are happy with how they treated the fans it truly saddens me. There was a large tug at my heart.
Peerless, the real shame is that we don't have a hockey alternative here in DC to watch live. I would be happy spending my money to watch junior, ECHL, AHL, NCAA whatever, I love live hockey. Having said that, I canceled my season tickets at the end of last season after 5 years and a 250% increase in my cost. Hopefully Ted reaps what he's sown.
Beautifully said, as always. You've managed to so eloquently capture what many of us are thinking and feeling about the NHL. The league and its owners are businessmen first but they're also entrusted with being stewards of the game we love. Instead, they've made a mockery of it by causing financial hardship to those who rely on it for their livelihoods and alienated a loyal fanbase. They should be ashamed but if they feel any remorse, I fear it will be fleeting.
I've been a STH since before the last lockout (that's what we've been reduced to, differentiating between the last and latest lockouts) and I started to doubt my commitment the last couple of seasons. The game experience has steadily deteriorated at Verizon Center, the blaring music, the canned attempts at fan participation, inedible food and lack of hot water in the restrooms have become increasingly intolerable. All of this is exacerbated by the soaring ticket prices and a product on the ice which is, frankly, not much fun to watch.
Most of us have a finite entertainment budget and I found some new ways to spend it during this most recent lockout. That said, my unhappiness with Monumental Sports hasn't reached critical mass, yet. It's fans like us that serve as the backbone of their STH base so they best hope the defections aren't too widespread while figuring out a way to keep their restive fanbase from deserting them.
I admire your convictions and hope to keep reading your insights on Capitals hockey for many years to come.
I decided not to renew my season ticket last spring - I didn't even order 2012 playoff tickets. I wasn't pleased when this story came out in June 2011. During the 2011 - 12 season, I got very tired of "the sellout streak" (especially during periods when there were more empty seats in my row than there were Capitals shots on net.) My takeaway was that if I wasn't satisfied, and wasn't willing to pay the higher ticket price, Ted and Monumental were satisfied that someone on the waiting list would. I also was fed up with dealing with Metro after games - and, no, driving to games was never an option.
I had zero sympathy for the owners going into the lockout. While I understand that the players are getting played to play a game - I also understand that the owners couldn't or wouldn't manage the business of team ownership so that they can honor their contracts with their players, and their commitment to their fans. And they seemed completely oblivious to cost of the lockout to other employees and businesses who rely on hockey fans support to make their living.
I can be patient with a team that's developing and finding their way (I've been a Nats fan in several 100+ loss seasons.) But I'd like to feel that the organization values me as a fan - not just a number in a sellout streak.
I feel like I have beaten wife syndrome and the NHL is the abuser. I keep coming back for more hoping it will get better. I am keeping my season ticket for now, but I admit I do have feelings of wanting to just tell them all to shove it.
Great, well-written article.
The point that really struck home for me was the mention a number of times about the bizarre, self-destructive behaviour of the NHL.
The only pro sports league in North America that had already lost an entire season to a labour dispute and the wackjobs take this path again.
Like many, I was hoping to see the entire season gassed if only for the prospect of seeing contraction or struggling franchises moved other cities.
As for Bettman, the unctuous, vile turd absolutely radiates phoniness.
It will be interesting to see what the crowds look like on opening night. It would be nice to see some empty barns and some well-hurled projectiles from the people who do attend.
Can't beat much of what was said above or in the comments but thanks for writing this and expressing what a lot of us are feeling.
Looks and sounds like a minor rebellion. I say we ought to turn it into a major one. Pass it on; make some noise; boycott the Verizon Center. After 5 years, I too gave up my section 100 season tickets. The combination of galloping price hikes and the contempt for fans and the game I felt from NHL owners, especially TL, in this lockout made my blood boil. I bought a large HD tv and still saved a pile over what they were charging me as a STH. Now I'll watch the games from my living room, knowing TL will never get another cent from me, ever.
Thanks for a well written post on no longer being a season ticket holder. It was honest, fair, logical and maintains a certain level of integrity that lockouts could never match.
I've been a lifelong NY Rangers fan (sorry) and I've taken heat over the last week from friends and fellow bloggers over taking a similar stance as you. I will remain a fan - and watch them on tv - but I will also no longer be a season ticket holder as well. Some would say, "If you watch them on tv you are still supporting them..", which is an extreme response because through the thick of it I still love hockey and cannot do without. But...it's like during a Presidential election when folk tell you that your single vote doesn't have an impact. It has to - because our personal private protests have a long reaching effect - we are the foundation of hockey fans rumbled. My season tickets were non-refundable to me and were used as leverage by MSG/NHL as a bargaining chip against the NHLPA - my rep told me that the small clause that I agreed to stipulated "in the event of a lockout..." (HEY BUT I WAS MAKING 1% ON MY MONEY!!!!! hurray). From that moment, it was over.
I guess historically lockouts and strikes are meant to strengthen the workers, but this was about billionaires fighting millionaires - and with my money held, I paid more attention to the details of how this would be resolved. I just wanted hockey. Everyone around me just wanted hockey.
But for fans like me who are no longer handing our wallets over, think about the part-time hockey goers and how this mess lost them.
Happy truncated season - see you on the boards...
This video will still remind everyone of how much fun we had during the lockout.
I started watching the KHL on a more or less regular basis during this lockout & discovered that I actually enjoy the style of hockey there much more. You constantly see great, creative passing plays, one on one moves, puck possession, spectacular goals, goalies having to constantly flop post to post. The NHL has become primitive again. Just dump & chase, crash & bang. Most goals are on tips from point shots or shoveled into the net during a crease melee. It's just primitive. The NHL has brainwashed everyone in North America to think that it's the best hockey you'll ever see, but that simply isn't true. Size, strength & primitive play is rewarded at the expense of skill. I'd rather watch a 5'7 skilled, fast player than some 6'5 closet on skates who can barely receive a pass. So yeah, I'm gonna continue to be a huge hockey fan & will watch on occasional NHL game (Capitals are my team as well), but for the most part I'll get my hockey fix elsewhere. International events, the K, maybe some other Euro leagues. For free.
I was a Shark's season ticket holder since their inaugural season back in 91. I actually gave up my tix at the end of the last season. Since the prior lockout - when Gary Bettman actually was quoted stating that it was in part due to the spiraling costs of season tickets - my ticket prices jumped almost 40%. This past year my tix went up two-fold. They went up because I was on the side of the ice where the Sharks shoot twice AND because I was in the first few rows of my section. I was done! They priced me out. I also knew that the lockout was coming. The sheer arrogance of both sides finally reached its limits for myself. I now attend a few MLB games in Oakland and I spend alot more time doing things around the house. So it has worked out well for me. I will miss attending the games but I refuse to supposrt them financially in any way any longer.
Well said. I am a Sabres fan who lives in the DC area, and I spent plenty of my hard earned dollars to the league between going to games in DC, Buffalo, Raleigh, Boston, etc. Three lockouts since the mid-1990s is something fans should never put up with in any sport.
I hope the Just Drop It campaigners get their message through. The lockout was a slap in the face to fans over our money.
Shout out to the Just Drop It following who posted your article on Facebook.
As a huge fan of the Ottawa Senators, even this year after the strike or labour unrest I have had enough. The bottom line is my money deserves more respect. These players are overpaid, and the contract terms are ridiculous. I'll go back to supporting live music which is entertainment, not a sport trying to be entertaining.
Well put and it has been shared on the Just Drop It boycott page.
They need to feel the pinch. This season is a write off and the NHL should not recover any money from this sham of a season.
So NHL, we are all just supposed to come running back to you after all this? I have been a hockey guy my whole life! I still play twice a week and let me tell you, there are other hockey games around to watch! You are going to have to earn me back! $60 for 400 section seats (Not like the days at US Air)? After all is said and done, that's me shelling out 5 notes to take my family to a game. Get bent! The 100 sections have been taken over by a a bunch of money people with no love of the game. They are there to be seen, that's it! Well guess what? Until you figure out where your true base is at, you don't get anymore of my money! Now, I am off to play pickup with a bunch of guys who still love the game.
Reading this article I felt like I could have written it. I actually posted the exact same sentiment on a cbc forum last week just to vent a little. The sad thing is that the NHL doesn't' -truly- care about me. I' live too far away from a NHL city to go regularly but you know what? I was pumped for the center ice package, I was looking forward to going to Nashville (closest team) for some games with my two kids, I had planned to do some Christmas shopping on nhl.com. But no more. I'm done. The NHL has lost not only me but my teenage kids as well. In truth they have likely lost my kids forever. They are teenagers and by the time this rift is healed, if it ever is, they will be out own their own and never ever miss the NHL.
Some years down the road the league will look at their revenues, smile, and talk about how great they are doing. They will never know what they missed, what it could have been, and now will never have.
Good thing you still purchased season tickets -_-
That would be news to my ticket rep, with whom I spoke on Friday to cancel.
I just wish there was a way for ALL fans at ALL Games to get up out of their seat at the 5 minute mark of the 1st period and wlak out to the concourse for the rest of the period. Playing to an empty center for just 2 minutes would make a statement and show the fans destain for how they were treated.
Peerless (or should I say “Cheerless”?)
Let me first say thanks. I've been happily lurking, reading and enjoying your well-written and informative posts for the past few years, and I don't recall letting you know how much I appreciate your work. So first and foremost I would like to thank you for the obvious effort you put into this excellent blog.
I both sympathize and empathize with the effect of this latest lockout upon your psyche. As others have said, this was another great piece from you, and one that captures my feelings as well—even though I don't have season tickets to relinquish. For what little it's worth, I applaud the difficult decision you and other season ticket holders have made to give up your tickets in order to send a message to ownership and the league.
This ambivalence seems widespread, and I share it. On one hand I'm delighted the lockout is over, and the league with which I'm most familiar (NHL) and the team for whom I cheer the most (Caps) can resume play. On the other hand, “frustrated” doesn't begin to describe how upset I am with this absurd and unnecessary lockout. (And if one more owner/league statement “apologizes” to fans for the “inconvenience” cause by the lockout, I may run shouting into the hills.) I too place blame to a far greater degree on the side of the owners who took the unilateral decision to lockout players and cancel games, who chose to take this decision so far along in the process, and who demonstrated repeated failures to negotiate in good faith. While Brooks Laich may say “we just punched our sport in the face,” I would say that it seems the league assumes its collective salad will be tossed by the fans no matter what.
For those attending games in person—particularly the first home game—who may wish to demonstrate their frustration with the lockout, I respectfully share a suggestion I believe comes from comments at another Caps blog, RMNB (http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/, I apologize, but I cannot find the link to the comment): attend the game, but spend the entire first period either at local bars/restaurants or on the concourse. The idea is that you contribute to the economy of the local businesses and/or blameless Verizon Center staff, while the empty stands would be a rather significant and visual statement. I know, technically Phonebooth concessions contribute to the bottom line of MSE—but tips, words of appreciation, and smiles for the staff seem worth it to me.
Will aka aphid
I canceled my season tickets today. I too gave the matter far more thought than it was worth; waffling back and forth in my mind had kept me awake at night for days since the lockout was resolved. Canceling was a 1-minute phone call with my Rep, with zero effort on her part to change my mind. To me this confirms the idea that fans are nothing but credit card numbers - "done with you; now your tickets go to the next person on the alleged waiting list."
I just can't believe that the Caps will be able to sustain high attendance with their always-escalating ticket prices, given how poorly we've been treated this season.
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