OPINION: NHL needs fans to run league

Players and owners need to think of public as lockout continues

Words of wisdom from Joffrey Lupul?

That’s right.  That’s not a typo.  The Toronto Maple Leafs winger spoke to the Canadian Press last Thursday and he truly understands the ramifications of the third lockout in 18 years for the NHL.

“It’s important that we realize this affects a lot of people beside us,” said Lupul. “There will be a point when fans start getting fed up.”

Finally, someone who gets it.  It’s about the fans.

While owners and players alike fight over pennies there’s one group that is being forgotten. The people who buy the tickets or watch on television.

Whether the owners or players know, there is no NHL without their dedicated and passionate followers.

Sorry to burst your bubble but if there’s no gate revenue from the public, then there is no league. Plain and simple.

It might as well be a highly skilled tier 3 league, because if no one pays attention then the pennies that the two groups are fighting over don’t even exist.

One of the biggest issues that surround the labour dispute is the distribution of hockey related revenue among the two warring parties.  If there are no fans then there is no discernible revenue to be fought over.

And the NHL is become perilously close to that reality.

According to economist and author Andrew Zimbalist who spoke to Sportsnet last Thursday confirmed “that teams below the Mason Dixon line in the United States are not profitable. Some of them are bleeding tens of millions of dollars a year.”

This group includes Phoenix, Florida, Dallas, and Carolina.  All of whom are in the lower third of NHL in attendance.

And that’s proof of the direct correlation between the fans and the profitability of teams.

If there are no fans, there’s no revenue, and no league.

All the aforementioned teams struggle to keep losses to a minimum as it is, and with the looming lockout they are sure to see even more regression in their attendance woes.

That simply means a smaller pie to fight over for both the owners and the players.

It really is that simple.  All the technical and legal-babble being spewed over by the two parties isn’t worth anything if there’s no fans.

Thus, it is actually Lupul who is the one with his head-on straight in this entire mess.

The fans are the driving force of any league, and with the NHL on the verge of losing playing time for the third time in three CBA negotiations it’s only a matter of time before their passionate followers stop tuning in.

It happened in 1994, it’s already happening below the Mason-Dixon Line, and it will certainly be further wide spread if the lockout starts interrupting the season.

The NHL is already the fourth most popular sport in America, and is on the verge of losing its spot to soccer.

Fans are already losing interest in the winter sport, and the pie is dwindling.

It’s finally time for the league to realize that the fans might not come back.  And without them the NHL is nothing but a bottom-tiered league where only ma and pa come to watch their kids play with a thermos of coffee.

So Lupul is right.  It’s time to stop fighting over pennies and start caring about the people that run your business; the fans.