The Social Media Danger for the NHL Lockout

(Photo: David Duprey / Associated Press / September 25, 2012)

I was pondering recently on how effective social media has been for the Obama administration.  President Obama is the first president to use social media while serving his term as president.  He is also the first president to regularly go on talk shows (both day and night).  In a way, he has allowed for his presidency to not be so cold, distant and separate from America…and that’s all thanks to the new age of social media.

Social media can be both a good thing and a bad thing for any administration, because the facts are getting out there faster than a news report can hit the television screens or a story can be written.  In 140 characters or less, the news can be passed on in seconds.

In a way, no matter how much the NHL pays for focus groups, they are in danger thanks to social media and how it’s being used.  Now, it’s not just the NHL that’s in danger, it’s also the NHLPA and every hockey player trying to throw their own propaganda out there.  Simply put, it’s turning a lot of fans off from the NHL, myself included.

Currently, I have plane tickets to head overseas to watch hockey.  I was hoping a deal would be in place before November 1, so I could go to Hawaii instead.  I could start booking my tickets to Dallas and still get a vacation in to the sunny island state.

But after what happened last week, I’m saying…screw hockey.  I’m going to Hawaii instead.  See you never.

I spent five years as a hockey writer.  Hockey was a great dream come true.  The whole notion that I would say ‘forget hockey’ should say something about how ugly this whole thing has become.

The NHL’s rejection that we saw tweeted left and right from the media, then what the NHLPA had to say, and then what the NHL had to say last Thursday…I think this so called ‘negotiation’ isn’t worth it anymore.  How hard is it to just come up with a list of the demands that both sides want, sit down at a conference table and just work it out?  How hard is it to stay in the damn conference room together and work it out?  How hard is it to hire a non-partial mediator to sit there and help both sides come up with an agreeable solution?  Both sides have to give a little in order to gain a lot.

Players taking to Twitter to blast the NHL is dumb.  50/50 and honor current contracts?  Sounds nice in theory, but apparently it doesn’t work.  How hard is it to ask the NHL why that request doesn’t work?  Why can’t you both take that 50/50 and try to move forward? 

You both agree to 50/50.  That’s a start…next, you need to discuss each and every line item being questioned and challenged. 

Why do you come up with proposal after proposal?  It’s a COMPLETE WASTE OF TIME!

It’s not the frustration that a season hasn’t started yet…it’s watching the way the so-called CBA negotiation is going (or NOT GOING).  Social media allows us all to take a look at what is happening in the so-called talks (or NON-TALKS).  We see players saying the NHL is dumb for rejecting their 3 proposals.  They bitch and complain on Twitter.  They try to get fans to sympathize with them and their loss.  They keep trying to compare losing their millions to that blue collar guy that spends thousands of dollars on season tickets just to sit in the last row of the arena. 

They want us to sympathize?  Why?  Truthfully, you want to know what we think?  We think both sides are the stupid parties…because the end result is that there is NO HOCKEY.  We don’t really care about your CBA.  We don’t care how much money you’re losing or how long you have to wait until you can hit free agency.  We don’t care about your revenue sharing.

We only care about how stupid both sides are being because they can’t come up with a clear cut agreement that there will be hockey.

Throw in social media and we see the mud slinging and how the lack of negotiation is going down…bouncing back from this is going to be worse than the last lockout.  There was no Twitter back then.  That first year back after the last lockout, I remember how empty MSG was.  It took a long time for those seats to fill up again, and we’re talking about an Original Six club, and the most famous arena in the world.

Tickets to sit in the front row were only $120 at MSG.  I paid about $80-$90 at Continental Airlines Arena for the first few rows from the ice to see the Devils.  I think it was $60-$80 at Nassau Coliseum to see the Rangers play there.

Those were the post-lockout prices just to lure fans back…and that was without Twitter.

Non-hockey fans in New York talk about how much that last lockout hurt hockey.  They say it was a “devastating blow.”  It took many of them years before they’d even step back into an arena because they found other things that were more interesting.  In New York, our latest interest seems to fall on the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn.  They’ll have a couple of KHL games in January.  It’s the “IT” place to go these days for concerts and sporting events…and they currently do not have an in-house NHL team.  {That is, not until 2015.}

People make life changes without hockey around that will prevent them from ever returning to the game.  They don’t have hockey to distract them, so they’ll fill their lives up with other things that become more important than hockey.

The one thing that fans should not have seen at all is the newfound war on Twitter between the NHL and the NHLPA.  Granted, the NBA/NBAPA was more fun to watch.  I actually got a kick out of following the NBAPA account.  It was hilarious and witty.  The NHL/NHLPA battle is just filled with so much bitterness and hate that it really turns people off…and we’re talking about turning people off from hockey PERMANENTLY.

Both sides are to blame for that.  The NHL should have hired a focus group to talk about how to approach releasing information on the negotiation progress [PROGRESS being the key word here], rather than figure out what are the right ‘trigger’ words to use for the fans and media.  Trigger words mean nothing when it’s apparent that both sides are not ‘negotiating.’

If a season is canceled, both sides are to blame for allowing it to happen.  It takes two to make this decision.  While some younger players say that they can play without a CBA in place, that’s just foolhardy.  It’s a good idea, but unrealistic.

You knew a lockout was coming a long time ago.  Players twiddled their thumbs all summer long…and they knew a lockout was coming.  They had these stupid little lunches to talk, but they did not negotiate terms of a new CBA all summer long.  They blame the NHL for that, when they are just as much to blame…and the fans know it! 

Players wasted everyone’s time.  They didn’t get their act together.  They lack true leadership.  They fired a guy that could have gotten the talks going before this summer.  The players are just as much to blame for this lockout as the owners are to blame.

The fault does not lie with just one side or the other, it’s all sides.  Fans are going to ban the NHL just because of what they see happening on Twitter.  This is frustrating for everyone. 

As for me, I’m not going to Europe next month.  I’m going to switch my ticket to Hawaii instead.  I’m so turned off by hockey right now.  You can say the straw that broke the camel’s back was seeing the player tweets on Twitter regarding the rejection of that 50/50, honor the contracts so-called proposal.  It became the new propaganda. 

I was so mad at THE PLAYERS.  They were spreading as much false information as the NHL was to get the fans/media to side with them.  I thought the players said that the fans weren’t really a part of this war.  I was mad at the players, because I knew the NHL had a reason for rejecting something like that.  An hour after the players took to Twitter, the NHL explained why…and they were just as justified in saying NO to that so-called proposal (that wasn’t really a proposal). 

I’m not big on the propaganda being spewed across Twitter, just like I’m not big on the GOP’s rape propaganda.  Propaganda is literally a huge turnoff, because all propaganda is a way to convince people to believe in X group, even if what they are saying is FALSE and not a good thing.

It’s not just the NHL that is turning the fans off, the players are just as responsible for turning fans away.  Many of us are getting really sick of what we’re seeing explode onto Twitter.  The Obama vs. Romney debates are more entertaining than the bitterness between the NHLPA and the NHL.  At least both sides of the presidential race are smart men.  I can’t say the same for some of the tweets I’ve been seeing in regards to the CBA.

The truth is the players are the little itty bitty millionaires (or thousandaires) going up against the guys that make way more money than they do…and are smarter than them.  In today’s society everybody knows…the little guy NEVER wins.  You have to bend.  Look at American politics…the only ones winning are the millionaires and billionaires no matter who wins the election.  The ones getting their spleens ripped out of them is the middle class…the guys that buy the tickets to your games.

So I’m not sure why you think any of us would care about the terms of your CBA or your lack thereof.  It’s your battle, not ours.  It’s YOUR money, not OURS.  We only care about the end result…whether there’s hockey or not.

So if you want a season, my dear hockey players, then sit down at the table with the NHL.  If they refuse to do so, then tell them you won’t be talking to them or submitting any proposal to them until they agree to sit down and really whip out a CBA with you.  No more wasting time…just create progress. 

Don’t bring the NHL’s proposal or the NHLPA’s proposal to the fans.  WE DON’T CARE.  Just sit down and bang out a CBA together.  It’s the only way you’re ever going to get a hockey season going.  You waste time with this proposal vs. proposal vs. proposal vs. proposal, just like you did this summer.  Sit down at a table and work out each point together.  You’ve already agreed on the 50/50, start from that point and go from there.  Right now, all I see is a lack of communication on both ends.  Learn to communicate with each other and come up with an amicable CBA. 

The way this is going, you’re losing more and more hockey fans by the day.  Want to change the propaganda around…start tweeting hope and nice things instead of this…”whoa is me” crap…”I’m going to go play in Europe” and take away a job from some other guy.  Quit being so selfish and work on the CBA with the NHL, quit stealing jobs from other guys.  It doesn’t make the fans love you any more when you’re stealing jobs from other guys.

Can you imagine how that middle class, blue collar guy would feel if some college kid with a law degree came in and stole his job?  You want to compare yourself with the $50k guys…trust me, stealing someone else’s job still doesn’t bode well with the blue collar guy you want to compare yourself to. 

Your only solution is to work it out with the NHL and come to an agreement.  Quit fighting each other and letting the fans see it all over Twitter.  Fans need to see progress if you want to keep them.  They need to see that there will be a resolution, because there will be one eventually.  You just need to stop pouting and start working it out.  Stop bailing ship and heading overseas giving fans less and less faith in the NHL and YOU as a player.  Stop being cowards and fight for what you believe in. 

Stop wasting everyone’s time.  PROGRESS is the key word here.  Start working on it.

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