Who is really to blame for the NHL Lockout? Gary Bettman, Donald Fehr or Us?

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At one point I wrote that there was going to be progress with the NHL talks as the league and the PA were meeting for hours at a time for multiple days. Apparently all that good will and negotiating means absolutely nothing because Gary Bettman is proposing that the NHL and the PA takes two weeks off from talking about getting a season going. From ESPN

Multiple sources told ESPN that NHL commissioner Gary Bettman suggested to NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr on Wednesday that the two sides take a two-week moratorium from negotiations. The news was earlier reported by TSN's Aaron Ward.

Fehr informed Bettman he'd like to speak with his membership first, a source said. The union likely will give Bettman a response Friday, although it is believed it would prefer meeting rather than not.

It is certainly disheartening that the NHL wants to take two weeks off of talks, which effectively begins the cancelation of games in December. Think about it for a second. If the NHL takes two weeks off from today we're looking at them getting back together on November 30th. I highly doubt that the league and the PA can bang out a CBA in one day to get games going on December 1st. 

We should have seen this coming. We are watching a man who has lead three lockouts (one season ending) battle a man who gives Bud Selig nightmares because he ruled the MLBPA with an iron fist (and also led the MLBPA through the 1994-95 strike and World Series cancelation). It's obvious that neither man is going to budge in what they want, especially with Jeremy Jacobs basically giving Bettman step-by-step instructions on what to do. 

After the jump, maybe the NHL Lockout is our fault…

I'm not sure what the owners and PA see that others don't because the NHL was suffering as the 4th most popular sport in America for the longest time. Hell, you can make a case that the NHL is the 5th most popular now behind the NFL, MLB, NBA and NASCAR. 

In September, Forbes.com wrote that the NHL fans are the ones to blame for the NHL Lockout and honestly, they may be right: 

 

During the 2010-11 season, the typical NHL team relied on gate receipts for half of their revenue. Last year the average team in the NFL, which has the richest national television deals (divided equally among all teams), got less than 25% of its revenue from ticket sales. The comparable figures in the NBA and MLB are 33% and 25%, respectively.

This means by simply staying away from the contests hockey fans can extract a much bigger pound of flesh than can supporters of the other three sports. It doesn’t matter if you turn off your television sets. The league’s new 10-year, $2 billion deal with NBC is such a small piece of the overall revenue pie that it is virtually inconsequential. What does matter is this number: $57, the average ticket price to see a hockey game ($9 more than basketball). Only eight teams out of 30 failed to sell at least 95% of their tickets during the 2011-12 season.

Following the 2004-05 NHL lockout the fans came back in droves. During the 2005-06 season 25 of the 30 teams had an increase in attendance from the 2003-04 season. Moreover, the average cost (tickets, concessions, parking, etc.) for a family of four rose from $256 in 2003-04, to $283 at the start of the 2007-08 campaign. The latest figures from Team Marketing Report, for 2011, show the average cost at $329, a 29% increase since the season before the 2004-05 lockout.

The logic, and the numbers presented, are pretty solid. For a league that thrives off of ticket revenue more than the other three "major" sports in America, to see them raise ticket prices every year and still sell out 95% of the arena means that no matter what happens, fans will come back. Everyone talks like the NHL is going to die due to this lockout, but it isn't true. You'll come back. You'll buy tickets and you'll buy merchandise and you'll fill the pockets of the specific owner(s) of your favorite team.  

Thanks to the fans who continued to pour through the turnstiles, the value of the average NHL team has increased from $159 million in 2003, to $240 million last year, while the average salary for a hockey player has increased from $1.6 million to $2.4 million.

What Mike Ozanian is implying is that the NHL isn't going to die because the fans won't let it. After the 2004-2005 NHL Lockout attendance increased and eventually drove revenue to about $3.2 billion dollars in 2011-2012. If the NHL is getting this kind of money it's obvious that the owners would think we'd come back again, in droves, because the sport has never been at its highest in terms of popularity. 

As we go through this, you'll see me mention FCI, which is Fan Cost Index. FCI tracks the cost of attendance for a family of four.

The FCI includes:

  • Two adult average price tickets
  • Two child average price tickets
  • Four small soft drinks
  • Two small beers
  • Four hot dogs
  • Two programs
  • Parking
  • Two adult-size caps

Let take a look at our lovely Boston Bruins. 

In 2001-2002, it would cost someone about $52.36 to go see a hockey game at the TD Fleetmut Centarden. At the time, that was a modest 6.1% increase over the previous season and ranked 11th in the NHL. The fan cost index in 2001-2002? $297.44 which was a 9% increase over the prior season. NHL Average Ticket: $49.86

During the 2003-2004 season, an average ticket to go see Boston was $54.10, an increase of 5.3% over the 2002-2003 season. The fan cost index to attend a game (on average) was $304.39, which was an increase of 3.7%. Boston's average ticket prices ranked them 6th in the NHL that year. 

Let's fast forward to the 2007-2008 season. An average ticket has actually remained the same in Boston and is about $61.40! That was an 8% increase from the prior season and ranked the Bruins 3rd in average ticket prices. The FCI for that season? $352.60. NHL Average Ticket: $49.66

The next year (2008-2009 season) the average ticket for a Bruins game actually…wait for it…went down 10.5% to $54.94. FCI for that season? Down as well to $336.27, a 4.7% decrease. The problem is that both of these figures, while cheaper than the previous year, are still higher than the NHL average ticket price, which was around $51. 

Finally, we look at the 2011-2012 season. The Bruins raised their ticket prices to $58.94 per ticket, which was an increase of 7.3%. Fan Cost Index for a family of four to attend a Bruins game that season? $352.26, a 4.8% increase. NHL Average Ticket: $57.39. 

So while the Bruins have had moderate increases (and one decrease, which shocks the hell out of me), the average NHL ticket price continues to sky rocket and (most) arenas continue to sell out (especially in Boston). 

If you honestly want to make a difference in the NHL Lockout, which seems to be the rallying cry for a fan who has no actual power in this thing, stay home and watch the game on NESN (or whatever channel you can watch it on). Whether you watch or not, the NHL still receives their money from NBC but if you don't physically go to the game, you're telling the owners that you're sick of their bullshit. 

If you continue to pay for your season tickets and continue to show up to games then you're just part of the problem. 

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