Home NHL NHL BLOG, SIX PACKS ON ICE: Lockout Heartbreak

NHL BLOG, SIX PACKS ON ICE: Lockout Heartbreak

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With the NHL Winter Classic being cancelled it’s looking bleaker and bleaker for hockey in the United States this year. I say this, consciously not including Canada, because we are all aware that while it does hurt Canada to not have an NHL season, it is not detrimental to the country.

The United States, especially in the Sunbelt region, was having a difficult enough time as is to cultivate popularity in the sport of ice hockey. Now throw in another lockout (following the two in 1994–95 and 2004–05), and it’s obvious that the sport has gone slightly comatose.

My second thought after hearing that the Classic was cancelled (and after all the profanities of course) centered on the economic loss that this will cause, especially for Detroit, one of the most economically depressed cities in this country.

There are currently 30 teams in the NHL.  Forbes magazine says 18 of them are losing money due to the lockout.

“Dr. Mike Bernacchi, a marketing professor at the University of Detroit Mercy, broke down the major leagues as follows.

In the NFL, the average team value is $1.1 billion. In Major League Baseball, the average team is worth $600 million. The average team value in the NBA is $300 million and the NHL comes in last at $240 million.

While the National Hockey League‘s profits are far from ice melting, Detroit does have an edge. The top grossing teams are Toronto, New York, Montreal, Detroit, Boston and then finally Chicago,” reports Fox Detroit.

Alright, now I understand that cities deeply-rooted in hockey tradition will always retain fans, and those fans will continue to spend money on hockey related revenue, however,  the fact is small businesses that cater to sports fans are greatly at risk. Even in such high-on-hockey cities as Boston, I know for certain that bars and restaurants near TD Garden are suffering. The difference of walking into The Four’s on a Tuesday when the Bruins are playing versus the same bar on a Tuesday this week with games cancelled is devastating.

In Pittsburgh, CBS reported Visit Pittsburgh President Craig Davis stating “Every game brings an economic impact to the city of about $2.2 million.”  Davis says those impacts range from, “money that is spent in the hotels, in the restaurants, attractions, parking and souvenirs. It’s money that cannot be replaced.”

Other events in these areas, i.e. concerts, conventions, etc., help to mitigate some of the financial damage, but there remains an irreparable loss.

Now like I said, Canada isn’t going to be hurting as much, but an article I recently read attempted to argue that Canadian cities will see NO economic loss, which I find hard to believe.

The Canadian Business Network called attention to one such theory entitled the “substitution effect”.

“‘The big thing is that if you were a season-ticket holder for the Maple Leafs, and all of a sudden the team’s not there for a year, you don’t just sit at home those 41 home games’,” says Matheson, an economics professor at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. ‘You figure out something else to do with your time and money.’”

I’m pretty certain that most Canadians I know are either watching or playing hockey 60% of the time, all the time. So if they are not at an NHL game you best go check the pond because they’re out there getting it done themselves.

Aside from money not being spent on tickets, souvenirs, beers, etc., what has failed to be recognized is the loss of jobs that are disappearing in this black hole of a lockout. Not only are the players not working, but also the concession staffs, the team shops, ticket representatives, Zamboni drivers, the ice crew, camera operators, the broadcast crews, stat guys, the list goes on and on and on… and that’s just inside the arena!

Hailing from the desert of Arizona, I know how hard it is for people to believe that ice hockey exists here, and was at one point thriving.  Since 1996, the Phoenix Coyotes have helped immensely to grow the popularity of ice hockey in Phoenix and the surrounding areas.

I want to explain how the lockout is affecting not only me personally but also the state of hockey in Arizona, as well as the rest of the United States, and maybe these owners and players can see how far reaching their inconclusiveness stretches, beyond their own personal gain.

Not only does having an NHL team in Phoenix contribute to the economy as discussed thus far, but in fostering an interest within young players as well. Youth hockey in Arizona has increased ten-fold because kids have had professional athletes to look up to and model themselves after.

With the lockout in place however, there is a negative ripple effect throughout the state.

The numbers on registration are down this season.

There is no ice at Jobing.com Arena. Therefore those normal ice slots scheduled for youth hockey are absent. This means less ice time for kids. This means diminishing attractiveness to participate.

For me, it meant no job. I moved home to Phoenix knowing that I could reinstate my position with the Coyotes, only to find myself twiddling my thumbs for all of September due to the lockout.

My work as a writer is difficult at best when there are no games to cover.

My hours at the sports radio station are cut because there again, are no games to cover.

Luckily I found a position within high school hockey, but that has far from stopped the trickle of problems.

In a meeting today it was more than difficult to attempt moving forward with the schedule of several youth games and events because the question continually came up “What IF the season starts?”

We had to discuss giving money back to parents and telling these families “Sorry, there just is no ice for you to play.” Having this conversation, just about broke my heart.

So perhaps Canada will be fine through all this. Boston, Minnesota, maybe even Detroit will be alright. But what about these kids and these fans in sunny states that have to try with every ounce of effort to love the game of hockey?

Money, jobs, and popularity are being lost at a rapid rate because of the NHL lockout.

And I’m beyond the point of a disgruntled fan; I need the NHL.

I need it to work so that my friends and I can work.

I need it to thrive so that kids here in Arizona can thrive in learning and playing such an incredible sport!

I need it so that I still have an answer to the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  Because even though I can’t be the 6’4 professional hockey player I wish I was, working for the NHL seemed to be the next best thing.  And now I can’t even have that.