A Promise to the NHL and NHLPA

Today is September 15, the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement between the NHL and NHLPA. Tonight, barring an 11th-hour miracle, the league will lock out its players and begin yet another in a seemingly endless cycle of work stoppages.

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If that happens, I have a promise to both sides.

The promise is this: I will not spend so much as a dime for the rest of my life on any of the auxiliary streams of revenue the league has.

I’m not turning my back on hockey or even NHL hockey – I’m a fan and always will be. So I’ll keep going to games and buying the sports package on TV so I can watch the teams play. But that’s where it stops.

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A huge portion of NHL revenue comes from merchandise and concessions. Jerseys, coffee mugs, hockey cards – when anything with a team logo is sold, the NHL gets a piece of it. The same goes for the pricey beer and nachos sold at arenas.

I’m done with it all.

Granted, I’m not the consumer of those products that I once was, even now. As writing about the Oilers has taken more and more of my time – and eventually transitioned into my full-time job – I’ve been less and less enthused about team merchandise. It’s hard to write objectively about a team while wearing their colours, and I’ve become far less a collector of team-related merchandise than I was even five years ago.

I’ve never stopped completely though, and when at the games I enjoy beer and nachos as much as the next man. But if the lockout, as expected, starts today, those days are over. I’ll Gandhi the games and the vintage Kurri jersey in my closet will be the last thing with an NHL logo on it that I ever buy.

That’s a promise.

Recently by Jonathan Willis


  • Wax Man Riley

    Props, JW. I agree.

    I have already cut my cable package and only watch games streaming online from shady Czech websites (or CBC). I don’t watch any of the advertising, don’t and will continue to not buy merchandise, however I have a habit of being at 10-20 games a year, and assume that I will continue.

    The lack of heroin beer in my fists while at the games will be the toughest thing to overcome, but i will partake in beverages or party favors before going and smuggle in my own nachos with cheese (don’t ask where I will stash it).

    I will not pay for parking. I will walk miles before giving them $12 to show me where to put my car.

    To everyone: First step, kill your cable package.

  • Colin

    This is effectively an idle threat. Bettman is laughing at you.

    You now make your living effectively “promoting” the NHL. So you are not giving up anything at all, since after the lockout you will still be effectively “promoting” the NHL.

    Your livelihood now depends on regenerating the fan base for the NHL after the lockout.

    i.e. Bettman has you trapped. You are his effectively his “bitch”.

    To make your threat “real”, you would have to permanently give up writing about hockey and say go start writing about soccer.

    mc79 could make the threat credibly, since he makes his living as a lawyer, and seems to like soccer.

    You are part of the NHL ecosystem, and dependent on it. Bettman knows that you are going to help bring the NHL back.

    • mr_nihilism

      Effectively, what you are telling us in this post, is that we should stop reading your writing about hockey forever in the various places you write about NHL hockey, since that is another product that helps the NHL generate revenue, just like ball caps and jerseys.

      You are part of the advertising and promotional ecosystem of the NHL that should also then be permanently boycotted by “us”.

      Do you really want us to do that?

      • Wax Man Riley

        I will continue to read Willis and all other hockey related websites. Using Firefox with noscript and Adblocker eliminate all advertising.

        The NHL makes no money off of my reading.

        (sadly, they make money off the tix I buy….. dammit!)

  • Good stuff Jonathan. The NHL feels the fans will keep coming back and I, for one, will watch hockey when it comes back.

    But here’s the thing. When I grew up it was all about hockey. Every Saturday night I’d watch HNIC with my old man.

    I have three kids. 9, 7, 4. Between them they have maybe watched three or four NHL games. They like hockey but I push them towards any international stuff that’s on or better yet to playing themselves.

    I guess when they get older they may become fans of NHL hockey but its not part of anything they are interested in now and I’m certainly not encouraging it.

    Hope all of those new fans in Arizona and Florida will make up for the eroding of the base here.

  • eastcoastoil

    When baseball went on strike I swore a pox on thier collective houses, not a penny of mine would ever go to any of them. Since then I never been to a game, never watched a game or bought a piece of merchandise. I swore that I would never consciously support the sponsors either. This I have done. Even when I walk into a room and a game is on I either leave or get busy doing something else. Never watched a worlds series, nothing…

    Of course with hockey this will be difficult. But JW I support you and will put myself on a diet. Principles my friends, principles.

  • mr_nihilism

    I agree.

    I was back in Edmonton over the summer and searched for a new Oilers Jersey for my 6yr old, who had outgrown his previous jersey. So I was hoping to find one for 30 or so dollars since I am sure there will be a new one needed next year.

    I couldn’t find one for less than 80 dollars, even at the Oilers store.

    Outside of a possible purchase for “lucky socks”, I think I would feel like doing the same.

  • mr_nihilism

    I can get on board with that seeing as how all the money I’ve spent over the years on merchandise that sits new and unopened in a box collecting dust. I wouldn’t miss buying more stuff I don’t need.

    Now if several million follow along the NHL might just notice us little people that pay the bills.

  • ubermiguel

    If the NHL misses any games I’d love to see the fans organize and boycott the first game back. Some people obviously wouldn’t, but could you imagine HNIC showing a game at ACC or Rexall with 3000 people in the stands? That’d be a message.

    Boycott Game 1!

  • Beavis

    Hear hear! I haven’t really bought any merchandise for a long time, but I can do my part and continue to not buy any.

    Seriously though, is there a professional league with less respect for its fans? MLB had the infamous 94 strike, but has there been anything major since? Last year the NFL even managed to get the season started on time. That could still happen here, but if I were betting money I wouldn’t put it on that scenario.

  • eastcoastoil

    Well said JW, in todays world there are so many other ways to watch hockey than pay the large money for the package. The problem is going to the games, when I lived in Edmonton I would try for ten games a year. At every one of them I was wearing some form of merchandise, consuming some form of over priced beverage and food while paying for top dollar parking.

    Bring back the flask and the “vintage” jerseys

  • eastcoastoil

    JW, is someone working on a article on where the players are being assigned and what that means?

    I read that Eberle and RNH are going to OKC, are they going?

    Also Nail is headed to Russia, if the season resumes how hard would it be to get him back? Also how does he compare to other talent headed there?

    Any idea where the vets are going?

    • Assigning Eberle and RNH to OKC means that they can play there, not necessarily that they will. Had the Oilers not assigned them to that team, they would not be eligible to report.

      As for Yakupov, I’m not sure. My understanding is that KHL contracts will include out-clauses – and Yakupov has made it clear he wants to play in the NHL – but things are fluid. As for how he compares, Malkin and Gonchar are supposedly primed to line up for Magnitogorsk. A lot of high-end players will be heading to Russia in the event of a lockout.

      There hasn’t been much word on what individual veterans have planned.

  • I love it JW and I’m on board. I propose we not be so hasty though and let them decide the deadline as tonight. I say we give them until Oct 1 to hash this thing out or we will forever boycott NHL & NHL Products for ourselves or our children. October 1, 2012 – This date is 10 days before the start of the regular season and likely the last day that a deal can be struck without having an impact on the regular season schedule.

    What do you think? How many can you get on board?

  • Eulers

    If they miss games, I’d love it if the TV networks refused to show games for a week after the lock out ends. The league would lose revenue and it would be a well deserved FU on the fans behalf.

    It would never happen though.

  • Colin.S

    Signed

    In recent years I’ve been buying more and more things, and now with kids, I’ve been buying them jerseys and the like. But this is the single DUMBEST lockout in professional sports, the stupidity of this lockout dwarfs anything from the NBA or NFL and I just can tolerate it. Especially witht he stupidity of the first volley from the owners.

    Should this lockout go into October, I formally sign on to this promise. I REFUSE to buy anything from the team or officially licensed crap from the NHL. I may also sell my current merch so that it prevents someone from buying a new item.

  • And just to be clear: I’m not asking anybody else to do this.

    I’ve simply decided that I’m not happy with the way things are being done, and that the best response for me personally is to stop spending money on league-related products and in-arena concessions.

    The last time around, I didn’t change my behavior at all. This time, it’s about greed rather than survival and I think that makes me not want to give more revenue to the league than I must to support my hockey-viewing habit.

  • Eulers

    JW, I think that the ‘lockout’ is mostly just posturing. The NHL made the threat to try to get some traction and the NHLPA is all to happy to make the NHL look bad by following through with the threat. The real issue is whether or not they get their poop together before the league misses games.

    All to say, I think ‘missing games’ rather than ‘locking out’ should be your threshold.

    • You might be right, but I’m sick of it. I’ve seen all I need to see from both parties.

      I’m hooked on NHL hockey, and I can’t see that changing any time soon. But as a consumer, I can put my money wherever I want and the sort of games being played out in Toronto and New York make me want to put it elsewhere.

      Every fan will respond in their own way, as individuals. For some, “games missed” might be the threshold for action. That action might be total abandonment of the league, something like what I’m doing, or nothing at all.

      For me, personally, I’ve had enough.

  • Owners refuse to get serious until they find out if they can break the union again . Bettman just their puppet . This negotiation will be the longest ever and beyond just one season as players will not succumb again as they did with Goodenow . Owners are the ones not negotiating in good faith or even interested in a fair deal . Bettmans deal is a joke , but he does a forked tongue response it is the failure of union not to accept all these rollbacks even though the owners are making more profits under present contract . Players should pay for more of their profiteering out of their own salaries – are you kidding me ? The lockout ends when the owners feel they have raked over the salaries ,etc. of the players – or reached what they feel they can max out and get their greedy hands on .

    Of course it’s the greedy owners fault and has been all along as they have never made any great stance to a fair deal with the union . Pittance is all Bettman has offered in their defence and a long monumental ways from addressing fruitfull negotiations .

    Go after the owners maaking them the bad guys in media and fan eyes and you’ll be surprised how fast negotiations will flourish . I back the union at this stage 100% .