(Post Written By Josh Howard)
I know we've all been upset with Gary Bettman lately.... well forever. However, I don't think it is completely his fault for everything that's happening. He makes a convenient target, but the real problem lies with the owners and how they deal with the players. After hearing Bettman's comments today, I felt compelled to write him a letter. Yes, it's from a poor schmuck that didn't follow hockey quite as much during the last lockout. But, I think I speak for all of us when I say that we aren't as ignorant as he makes us seem. Well... read for yourselves and keep in mind that I'm trying to be civil. It takes a lot of balls to do what Gary Bettman does for a living.
. . .
Dear Mr. Bettman,
If I could, I'd like to take a few moments of your time to discuss a few things I've picked up on lately. I am not writing to argue, yell, or get upset as some I'm sure will do. There is a time and place for that, but it isn't now and you aren't someone who deserves it.
Hit the jump for the rest of the letter and your thoughts:
First let me thank you for all that you do as league commissioner. It takes great strength to take stands that at times aren't popular. It also takes a lot of guts to present one of the best trophys in all professional sports when you know that you will be booed. You have a lot of strength and wit that seem to keep you going. However, that's not what I'm hear to talk about. As as fan of the NHL, I am concerned about that 'L' word... a lockout.
Having followed along on twitter, blogs, and news sites about the negotiations, I am very worried that things are not going well. I understand that there isn't a lot you can do about that except to try and help bring the sides together. There is one quote that you made that makes me question you. "We recovered last time bc we have the world's greatest fans." I would agree with this, however I thing it has more to do with the fans being forgiving. For one, I am very forgiving. But, two lockouts in such a short amount of time would be devastating to me. You see, it isn't the long term fan that this hurts... it's the casual fan or the small market fan in areas that are struggling. This whole situation does come down to money, but I definitely know hockey fans that aren't going to watch should the season be dramatically shortened.
Personally, I do not mind if the season is shortened. It would be advantageous to take the time to get a deal done that works for both sides. That leads me to my last point. The length is something that's tricky to determine as none of us has a crystal ball to see the future. With that said, I and my fellow fans would like to see the longest length deal possible. We don't want to go through this process again anytime soon any more than you do. It may sound odd, but we as fans DO feel like we're part of the process as it's our ticket sales and support that drives these teams and their brands.
Please sir, do not try to think us as ignorant when speaking about the NHL. I don't mind you saying we are the best fans, but it would be nice to hear that you guys don't want to hurt us with a lockout or shortened schedule. We can both agree that the best product on the ice fills seats no matter the cost. That doesn't mean I'm asking for you to suggest a change in the cap system... It simply means that this issue with fans isn't a money one. We've all seen what the lockout did to the NBA, NFL, and MLB leagues in past years and we do not want that to happen to us. There simply aren't enough of us to support excellent product if people start watching other leagues instead of the NHL.
I truly appreciate your time and effort. Thank you for reading this if you were able to get it.
Signed a truly passionate Detroit Red Wings fan/blogger/artist,
. . .
So... do you agree with me? Am I being 'too nice'? I think we can all agree that the longer this thing goes... the worse it is for all of us. Discuss...
Can we address this to the NHLPA as well. Remember it takes two parties coming together. The PA seems to be playing a PR battle that makes them look all pretty in a shitty situation. From a lot of fans reactions that I have been seeing it is working. I have seen comments saying things like players are the ones who put their bodies on the line and they make me wonder, do people think that the owners are pocketing the percentage of revenue that does not go to the players? Paying coaches like Babcock isn't cheap. Front office people are not donating their time and energy. Players do not cover the cost of getting from city to city night after night. Someone has to prepare the ice and sharpen the skates.
A comment from the Fehr that I really hated was his comment about league working (not work stoppage) is baseball and it also the only league without a cap. Yeah and it also has a dozen teams that might as well be in the minors and only a few teams that matter year in and year out. I would rather follow a sport where every game of the season matters and there is a chance any team could make the play offs and any play off team could win it all. To me MLB is not a working system if you are from areas such as Kansas City.
@Jay Argentina I wasn't a big fan of Fehr's MLB comment either, but asking the players to roll back salary AGAIN after such a short time seems like a really, really ballsy move on the part of ownership. Ownership got everything they wanted last time around and now they want the moon again? It doesn't look good, but I am firmly in the player's camp on this.
One thing that bothers me is that regardless of whether there is a season or not...NBC has to pay the NHL $200million. If for some reason NBC bails on televising the NHL after their contract is up everything the NHL gained last season with the playoff ratings and whatnot - will be lost.
@Tnhgeno I personally hope that NBC and the NHL don't re-up their contract because a contract with ESPN would be MUCH more beneficial long term to the sport. Why is it that you very rarely see NHL games discussed on ESPN during the regular season and the playoffs only get brief mentions?It is because ESPN does a really good job of growing products that they have a stake in. If the NHL were to get a contract with ESPN, then Sportscenter/etc would talk more about hockey because it would get them good ratings. Most sports fans, at least in my generation, watch ESPN a lot and would totally buy in to hockey more if it was more easily presented to them.
@_Wolverine_ I believe ESPN dropped the NHL, I don't think the NHL could get a contract with ESPN even if they wanted to.
I agree though, that if it was an option to go with ESPN or NBC, ESPN would be the clear choice if you wanted more viewers and an opportunity to grow the game
@Jay Argentina @Tnhgeno That's interesting, I did not know that the NHL ever had a contract with ESPN (pre-lockout I was young enough to not pay attention to channels). I guess my theory may not have held true in the past, but ESPN sure does a great job of pushing all sports SEC and the other major professional sports so I figured the same would go for hockey. Regardless of the channel, I just really want hockey to exist this year...
@Jay Argentina @_Wolverine_ And the details surface! I didn't know numbers grew since changing to NBC. Well alright, I revert back to my original post about not slapping NBC in the face after all they have done for the NHL.
I agree, showing every playoff game was probably one of the best things about the NHL this past year.
@Tnhgeno @_Wolverine_ If I remember the details correctly ESPN did not drop the NHL but the NHL would not renew the contract that ESPN offered post lockout as it was very insulting for the amount of money and number of games being offered. Since going to NBC and Versus/NBCSN the numbers show far more growth then what excited under the ESPN contract. On a personal note I rather enjoyed every playoff game being shown on TV last year, something that ESPN never did despite having ESPN, ESPN 2, and ABC available to air games. In fact I believe VS/NBCSN has shown more games per year, in every year they have had a contract with the NHL, then ESPN did when they had the contract.
@_Wolverine_ @Tnhgeno I find the ESPN situation to be a bit of a catch 22. They claim to be the 'worldwide leader in sports', yet only cover the brands that pay them to do so. Not that I don't think ESPN should be paid for their services, but how can you claim to be the leader in sports news if you flat out refuse to cover a sport because they don't have a contract with you?
Love your site, but hate the new format! Takes forever to load on mobile. By the time it does load, I've almost lost interest in the article. Any chance you can make it more mobile friendly? (Not trying to whine, I really do love your site)