The biggest difference between the impending lockout and its older, nastier, 2004-born brother from a fan’s perspective (aside from the complete unnecessariness of this one), is the accessibility fans have to the larger conversation. Message boards were around in 2004, but they weren’t communal the way social media is now. We’ve all seen what @UnfollowNHLSept is trying to do with Twitter (despite a number of followers which, I’m surprised to find as I check, is considerably lower than expected) and Janne Makkonen’s viral video has certainly made the rounds.
Concluding whether or not stakeholders like these will make a different may, in the end, be impossible. And whether or not you agree with their approach may be equally irrelevant. If nothing else, the social media reaction to this seemingly inevitable disaster will be an interesting social experiment.
First of all, public sentiment – in general – likely won’t play a pan flute in this orchestra. If the NHL cared at all about the fans’ opinions, they would not be heading into their third work stoppage in less than twenty years. Retweets and page hits won’t matter one iota to how fast this gets resolved. It might lead to some clever sound bytes, Photoshops, and blog posts – but that’s about it.
More interesting, to me, is the opposition that’s formed…to the opposition. There’s an almost anti-anti-lockout sentiment emerging in these same social media channels.
Half the responses to Makkonen’s video seemed to be along the lines of, “What’s the point?”, and I can’t say I disagree. Great video. Moving highlight reel. Valid points, and the kid’s a phenomenal editor who should embrace that trade professionally if he hasn’t already. But did we all come away seeing the same point? And the @UnfollowNHLSept people (apparently, there are 3 who manage the account) seem to spend as much time defending their purpose and right to Tweet as they do actually contributing to the discussion.
My question is: why?
Let them protest. Let’s see how far it goes. Logic’s actually on their side. Fans of the NHL, in my personal (and purely emotionally-driven opinion), have every right to be upset. Not just because they’re being denied their immediate, addictive, annual satisfaction – no. Because, as a consumer, it’s just downright frustrating to see a company or organization with so much assumed brand equity flush that relationship down the toilet.
Can you imagine if Apple, (or perhaps we’ll say Rogers, to make the technicalities of this metaphor work better), felt rather arbitrarily that they were paying their network engineers too much money, and locked them out until a deal was reached? Even though the company was perfectly capable of functioning while good faith negotiations could occur? And they basically came out and said, “Yeah, we know you all bought iPhones and some of your livelihoods depending on those networks working, but, we’re basically just going to shut the networks down for awhile and render the hardware in your hands useless until the engineers accept our demands. Sorry.”
It wouldn’t exactly fly.
Now, you’re protesting that smartphones and hockey are vastly different markets and not really an appropriate analogy. You might be right. But the principle’s the same, and that doesn’t make this situation any more tolerable.
I’ll leave you with a segment from a particularly impassioned Tumblr post via an apparently-lifelong NHL fan. It’s well written, logical, and while it may steer clear of the specifics that give this situation the legitimate complexity it has (hey, I can’t say both sides don’t have some merit to what they’re saying), it’s affecting.
If only because, maybe, oversimplification is the first step leading everyone involved back to the kind of rational perspective that might actually solve this spirit-crushing calamity:
I am not just a Rangers fan, but a fan of the league and the game.Â Â Thatâ€™s what the NHL can do to a person.
But no more. Not if you allâ€”adults, businessmen, professionalsâ€”canâ€™t find a way to conduct full-seasons of NHL hockey.Â In my business, the behavior, decision-making and posturing like yours as the current CBA approaches expiration would lose me clients and a livelihood.Â The business I own would never recover and cease to exist.Â Â In every other business it would get people fired or demoted, have disastrous results for the business and have long-lasting impact on the company.Â Â But you continue to operate devoid of this kind of consequence, lacking the comprehension of how this will matter to the people who buy tickets, patronize your sponsors, consume the entertainment the NHL provides.
You present a lockout as the only viable negotiating stance and tactic rather than seeking true solutions for your problems in an adult, sane and professional manner.Â Â You present the lockout as the only weapon you seeâ€”and a nuclear oneâ€”because you wonâ€™t stand on the positives that have happened over the past generation in growing the league, and you wonâ€™t figure out how to continue building and growing those positives for the future.Â The lockout represents a choice to only use the negative to achieve goals.Â Â If this is the prevailing wisdom and if you are going to push the nuclear button on playing a full season, then I will push my nuclear button:Â return my season tickets to the Rangers, no longer spend a dime on the NHL, discontinue my NHL Center Ice Service, dump the GameCenter apps from my electronic devices.Â Â I will simply erase the NHL from my present and future. In 1994, I did this with Major League Baseball after multiple strikes and lockouts from 1980-1994â€¦â€¦..and I have never returned.
Thursday morning links!
-Via TLN, Cam Charron talks about the 24-team solution. Even if it’s just a start to the conversation, this might be the (first?) best case against contraction that I’ve seen other than videos of childbirth.
-No one’s talking about the CBA, by the way. In case you were wondering. And yes, it was a complete coincidence these talks recessed just in time for the Labour Day long weekend.
-Bob McKenzie’s back from vacation, and he quite rightly points out there are some high profile RFA’s caught in the CBA bubble. They probably kinda want to get this whole thing sorted out.
-The NHLPA issued players a “What to Expect When You’re Expecting (A Lockout)”-type document, which sounds as ominous as I’m sure those “what to do if the Soviets fire everything at us” guides used to be. So, unless @DGB beats me to it, I’ll just be off to satirize that…