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If enough fans stay home, the NHL might realize it misses us more than we missed it. (JOHN LEHMANN/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)
If enough fans stay home, the NHL might realize it misses us more than we missed it. (JOHN LEHMANN/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

STEVE PATTERSON

The lockout’s over. Let’s take our sticks and go home Add to ...

Friends. Canadians. Hockey fans. Lend me your ears (for just a few minutes before filling your heads with statistics for your fantasy pools and emptying your wallets for the chance to watch your “heroes” in action):

The NHL lockout is over after what seemed like an eternity – especially if you watched sportscasters trying to navigate the legal terminology. (Think Larry The Cable Guy as the lead in Hamlet.)

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Diehard fans are more eager to forgive than a group of glee club high school students after a song fight. But I’m not one of them.

Sure, I love hockey as much as most red-blooded Canadians. I have felt the highest of highs when “my team,” the Montreal Canadiens, has won and the lowest of the lows when it hasn’t. (I can only imagine how hard it must be to be a Leafs fan.) But I won’t be watching the Habs, Leafs or any other NHL franchise on TV and I sure as h-e-double-hockey-sticks won’t be buying tickets to games for the foreseeable future, for the following reasons:

1. GREED

I don’t know the ins and outs of the new “collective bargaining agreement,” but I do know that in an era where teachers are fighting for better pay and can’t seem to convince governments that a smarter world is worth a few extra bucks, supporting grown men who play hockey and already get obnoxiously high salaries doesn’t seem right. Does this mean I want to go watch a teacher work? Absolutely not. I barely listened when my attendance was mandatory. But I do think teachers deserve much more and professional hockey players deserve much less than they are currently getting.

2. TIME

Sure, it’s nice to watch hockey on unbearably cold Saturday nights in the winter. Maybe even one other night a week during this time. But thanks to global warming, that’s really only a couple of months a year now. The rest of the time I’d much rather be out actually doing something. What if we discover during this truncated season that we really only need 40 games a year, plus playoffs? What are the other games for then? (See point No. 1.)

3. PRICE

It shouldn’t cost a mortgage payment to attend a hockey game, particularly when middle-class Canadian families have already over-extended themselves to get that mortgage and are spending too much money on everything else. Your money would be much better spent on other things than the occasional highs – more often the lows – of attending a National Hockey League game. (See point No. 4.)

4. UNDER-PERFORMANCE

If you go to a live music concert by an artist you enjoy hearing, you have a reasonable expectation that the music’s live performance will be as good as or better than you’ve heard it recorded. If you go to professional live theatre, you expect the actors to know their lines and be able to, well, act. Live, professional stand-up comedy should make you laugh out loud at least once. So how come the National Hockey League’s “most valuable franchise,” the Toronto Maple Leafs, worth a cool $750-million according to Forbes magazine, haven’t been the best in the league since there were only six teams and people were using rotary phones? (Look it up, kids.) Rewarding incompetence with increased revenue breeds further incompetence. Is that what you want to be? An incompetence breeder?

5. IT’S TIME FOR FANS TO TAKE A STAND (NOT THE STANDS)

Over the past few months, owners, players and all whose existence depends on the National Hockey League (and indeed are completely irrelevant without it) have had their say. They’ve talked over percentages of league revenues, salary caps and how many zeroes there are in a “kazillion.” Left out in all of this is where most of that revenue originates: the fans. If the fans stay away in droves (about as likely as a Kardashian winning a Rhodes scholarship, I know), then perhaps owners would realize their would-be clients (that’s the fans) shouldn’t be taken for granted and players might realize their multi-million-dollar salaries are a privilege.

I say all this realizing that there are thousands of everyday people who make their living from the NHL as well: the ticket-takers, hot-dog makers and private corporate box hostesses who should be paid very well for putting up with pretentious private box types. I wish all those people plenty of prosperity and no ill will.

But the NHL has become an obese, entitled, uncaring, gluttonous beast that forgets where all the food it gorges itself on comes from. It could stand to lose a few hundred thousand pounds.

The tickets I’m not buying are tiny morsels that won’t be missed. But if enough other fans do the same, the NHL might realize it misses us more than we missed it.

Steve Patterson is the host of CBC Radio’s The Debaters. His one-man show This Is Not Debatable continues throughout Canada this spring.

 

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