With negotiations slated to commence later on today, it is with a heavy heart that I must report that it was too little, too late for some local hockey fans.
A good friend of mine and a season ticket holder since the 2003-2004 season has finally taken his sealed box of season tickets for this year to Bridgestone Arena and asked for his money back.
I have spoken with many other Predator fans who have done exactly this. Long time supporters, many of which survived the last lockout and kept their money in the system in earnest of a deal getting struck before the loss of the 04-05 season are starting to lose faith. My friend, Jeff Leet, was one of those and he is one of the main reasons why I report on the Predators today and have such a renewed passion for the game of hockey.
Jeff is from Kentucky and after moving down here to attend Watkins School of Art and Design, he found himself as an intern at a company where his boss was a huge hockey fan and season ticket holder for the Nashville Predators. Jeff won tickets to a game towards the end of the 2002-2003 season and from then on Jeff was hooked. He immediately bought season tickets for the next year and attended every game for the next five years.
During the lockout period of 04-05, Jeff took me to Gillian’s for the Predators draft party where I got the chance to meet Adam Hall and Coach Peterson. I have always followed hockey but by being at MTSU finishing my degree, I was not able to follow it as closely as I once did in high school. Plus, I had never been to an NHL game…ever. Jeff took me to my first NHL game the season following the lockout against the Detroit Red Wings which sparked my immediate passion for the Predators and my vehement hatred of the Winged Wheel.
By staying with the Predators during the lockout, Jeff was commemorated with many others as the “Loyal Legion”; those who kept their money with the Predators in hopes of a season that wasn’t. (Interesing side note: They misspelled his name on the puck Jeff Leey)
I asked Jeff about the difference between the lockout of 04-05 and 2012-2013 and he had this to say:
“In 04-05, everybody knew major flaws existed in the system…it sucked but needed to be fixed; it didn’t feel greedy….[12-13] is simply damaging…there were way too many precursors to allow this to happen.”
The most telling quote from Jeff strikes at the very heart of the unresolved tension and fan apathy for the NHL and NHLPA:
“I quit following the situation because it makes me disgusted when the wealthy are arguing with the wealthy.”
He agrees that both sides are greedy in this venture and not one are above blame for the continued lockout. His breaking point came over a period of five days from the meltdown of negotiations last Thursday to the cancellation of games til December 30th on Monday. So on Tuesday, Jeff did what he felt was a clear signal to the NHL and NHLPA of him not buying into another season with a league that would put their fans through another lockout within eight years…he took his sealed box of season tickets and handed them back at 501 Broadway and said enough is enough.
I asked Jeff if he had any inclination of coming back to support the Predators and by extension the NHL to which he replied:
“Maybe I will come back, but the stubbornness in me would keep me from coming back…it is absolutely frustrating….it all depends on the resolution of both sides i.e. five year CBA=not returning because I am not going through this yet again, but a longer term deal, there is a possibility I might buy season tickets again.”
Jeff also wanted to make clear about his intentions not being directed at the Predators, but the league as a whole.
“It is unfortunate the Predators have to take the loss of my business but the only way both parties will listen is if you hit them in their pocketbooks….this is the only message I can personally send that makes a difference. I LOVE the Predators…this is my sports team, I may like the Vols and Titans but I love the Predators.”
In conclusion, Jeff feels that if the season is cancelled that many more devoted Predators ticket holders will cancel their tickets. I have already seen Codey Holland of Section 303, a section of some of the most devoted Nashville Predators fans, has cancelled his tickets.
Hopefully the lockout will get resolved soon and the fallout from this event might not be as bad, but for many such as my friend Jeff Leet, the damage has been done.