In this space, generally, many a Predator fan would be tuning in for our post-game report on the pre-season game last night between the Nashville Predators and division rival St. Louis Blues. It would be loaded with fun facts and tiny diversions that make pre-season games so much fun by trying to see who might earn that coveted roster spot or how the new crop of rookies and draft picks are coming along.
Last year saw the emergence of Craig Smith bypassing Milwaukee altogether and turning in a rookie performance that netted him another 2 years at $2M. How is Ekholm progressing? Is Pickard finally going to show some of the form that made him a first round selection? Is Austin Watson looking to become the next Ryan Kesler? Will Pontus Aberg join the Craig Smith club and nab a roster spot?
But no, these things have not and will not come to pass. It is day 11 of the NHL lockout and although the Predators calender on the right hand side of the homepage says Bridgestone Arena has a game scheduled for Saturday October 13th, (unless something gets done with a quickness) it is not to be.
Writers across the blogosphere and hockey news outlets are reporting on this to the Nth degree, dissecting every angle and sound bite for leniency towards agreements and hostility toward bargaining and compromise. Neither side is winning hearts and minds with this endless banter unless in the next few days the NHL and NHLPA can finally come to terms with each other and get what many NHL fans truly believe to be the greatest sport product back into action.
The Predators fans are some of the lucky ones in this ordeal boasting one of the best fan-incentive projects for those willing to stick things out in hopes that hockey will resume. An APR-based incentive to keep money with the Predators and a boatload of Smashville reward points to be used on merchandise, events and concert tickets also help ease the sting of not having any hockey downtown.
But is this enough?
Many fans are already fed up with a league that only eight years ago did the exact same thing. The league, the owners and players all bet on the fans coming back and they sure enough did; coming back in droves to make the last seven years of the NHL some of it’s most profitable. But will it happen this time if a true lockout of the entire season occurs?
Momentum, the one key element that everyone knows is the make or break ingredient in every sporting event, is now being tampered with yet again and although many are optimistic that the league will get things under way by at least the Winter Classic, the damage may have already been done.
Just reading other articles about the NHL lockout and the subsequent comments below, it doesn’t take an investigative journalist long to realize that fans, especially long-time season ticket holders (yep, the same ones that stuck through the last lock-out and the fire sale and the relocation talks) are fed up with the nonsense of a league and players not being able to find common ground in a timely fashion with revenues far exceeding what they were squabbling about only 8 years ago.
This aforementioned momentum is what small market teams like Nashville, Florida and Phoenix use to top attendance numbers and sellouts from a season ago. The continued success of Nashville led to the best season yet with record-breaking attendance figures not seen since the inaugural season and the most sellouts in a season. Florida and Phoenix, by icing competitive teams that shocked the NHL had Florida winning their division and Phoenix advancing to the WCF, hence fans started to come back to these venues and cheer on a team that has been lacking in the attendance department.
All this is slowly coming to an end the longer this lockout stretches out. The casual fan, which is just now finally coming to more and more Predator games will not understand why the Predators aren’t playing and quickly turn to college sports or the pro football team across the river for their sports entertainment (trust me, I talk to them every day and this is the general consensus). But the frightening part is the long time hockey lover, the ones who remember the Dixie Flyers and the Nashville Knights and have supported the Predators since Day One are growing very tired of this scenario playing itself out as a broken record since 1994.
And it was those fans that not only saved Nashville from being moved, but helped to build the game to the second generational fandom that it is today. Take away these fans and what good did the lockout do?
The lockout will not benefit anybody including owners, players and especially fans.
Where do you stand? Are you just as frustrated? Are you going to give up? Are you going to give in?