Sorry seems to be the hardest word

Image from Fred Chartrand, AP.

NHL teams try to lure fans back

By Eric Wilkins, Staff Writer

The boys are back in town. Yes, with the NHL lockout officially over, hockey is back on the sports fan’s menu. Being in Canada, and one of the craziest hockey cities in the country, there was never any doubt in my mind that a good number of fans would blindly come running back to their teams like lemmings. It’s kind of like those horrible relationships you hear about every once in a while. A hot girl treats someone like dirt, dumps him, teases him for the longest time, and then decides to get back together. And oh, how fans have caved. Cleanup on aisle four, self-respect leaking everywhere.

Granted, this isn’t quite how it’s gone for every team in the league. Some franchises had trouble getting fans out before the lockout, so the current situation is even worse for many of them. Just take a look at Columbus. To help rectify the situation, small efforts have been made by clubs to show that they do care about their fans. Florida has perhaps made the greatest effort to reach out to fans by offering season tickets, a jersey, and free parking for $168. The jersey alone is about $130 retail, so it’s a pretty killer deal. Though I didn’t even realize Florida had a team… In general, NHL teams are just discounting everything for the first few games, whether it be merchandise, concessions, tickets, or everything. But who cares?

For the most part, the discounts only apply to the actual games. Therefore, the only people the teams are apologizing to are the ticket holders. The people who were going to come back anyway. What good does $1 concession items do for me? Even if I wanted to, I can’t wander in off the street to pick up some cheap eats because I haven’t dished out a ridiculous amount to watch the game. None of these apologies are directed to the average fan; they’re only directed towards the ones with money. And for that matter, how many teams have actually apologized? While Gary Bettman took out full-page ads in newspapers across Canada and the United States to say sorry for the lockout, a good number of teams haven’t actually admitted blame.

Let’s take a look at our own Vancouver Canucks. The team tried to make peace with fans by opening Rogers Arena to fans throughout last week, making all concession items $1 for the first three home games, and discounting all merchandise by 50 per cent at all team store locations for the first three games. The first home game was also made to be a “jersey off our backs” event, allowing lucky fans to take home a game-worn jersey. Last, but not least, there was a video released, entitled “Something Was Missing.” We can dismiss most of this make peace offering without much more discussion. Already touched on concession discounts. Merchandise discounts don’t apply to out-of-town fans who can’t make it in to a team store. “Jersey off our backs” is just bringing “fan appreciation night” to the start of the season instead of the end.

And the video is quite possibly the worst piece of drivel I’ve seen in some time. A piece of ridiculously average “poetry” set to scenes of Vancouver and culminating in some clips of Canucks fans going crazy, did absolutely nothing for me. I will admit that allowing fans to watch practices and scrimmages for free was a nice touch since it allowed the real fans, not just the suits who can drop 10k+ on season tickets, to see their heroes on the ice. But let’s face it: that cost the club virtually nothing. In addition to this, it has to be noted that the Canucks are one of the teams that hasn’t come out and actually said sorry. No newspaper ad. No press conference. Not even a Tweet. Type in “sorry” or “apology” on the team’s official website and you get nada.

And really, why should they? This is Vancouver. Over 15,000 fans beat down the doors of Rogers Arena simply to watch a scrimmage. The ‘nucks could just go about their normal business without even acknowledging there was a lockout, and fans would still come racing back. The Canucks are the only hot girl in town. And they know it.