For almost three months the lockout has frustrated fans of the NHL. It was just eight years ago that the league was in the same boat but mended its collective bargaining agreement, at the cost of an entire season. Unlike back then, fans are social media savvy now and they’re letting the world know they’re clamoring for more NHL hockey, but hesitant to trust a league that has burned them twice recently.
The league owners and players might be close to a new CBA agreement, thanks to recent meetings which were closed off to commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive Donald Fehr. Meetings have gone well, with both sides agreeing that the talks have moved in the right direction – which even led to a new proposal by the players. There’s no guarantee the end will come soon and that the season will be saved but it’s just wishful thinking as something can go awry at any time.
If the NHL does return this season, the league has some butt-kissing to do; to all the fans that have been collateral damage as owners and players fight for more money. We decided to look at five ways the NHL might be able to win back its fans and make them happy, after nearly forcing them to watch another winter of NBA action.
1: Appreciate Ticket Buyers
Like all of the major sports, NHL tickets are drastically over-priced. Fans will get full refunds for the games missed so far, of course, but franchises should offer up discounts to bring back the masses. Teams that have no issue selling out on a nightly basis could offer up 20-percent discounts, while the smaller-markets could do two-for-one tickets. There are several NBA teams that offer free tickets to the following home game if a certain amount of points is reached – it wouldn’t be a bad idea for NHL teams to adopt the same concept.
2: Free Parking
Let’s face it, parking is almost as big of a racket as ticket prices. Want to park at the Prudential Center in Newark for a New Jersey Devils game – that’s $30. Give the fans a break, even for just a few months, and it certainly won’t go unnoticed. Who knows, they might just spend it inside on concessions.
3: More Accessibility to Players
The NHL has always done a decent job of making its players accessible to the fans. There are season ticket holder meet and greets, carnivals, as well as other special events – but more could still be done. Player autograph sessions for one hour after games would allow fans quick one-on-one time with their favorite NHL stars, allowing for a better connection to the team. Giving away the jerseys off the players backs after several home games, rather than just on fan appreciation day, might not be a bad idea either.
4: Free NHL Center Ice
We all want to have free reign over which team we watch each and every night and NHL Center Ice gives us that freedom – at a hefty price. Fans can watch out-of-market games that might not be available to them and scout the talent from around the league. There’s no doubt Center Ice would be cheaper than normal since it’s a shortened season, but three or four free months before the playoffs couldn’t hurt.
5: Reschedule the Winter Classic
This one’s for you, Detroit and Toronto. Thanks to the lockout, the league was forced to cancel the Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs scheduled for Jan. 1 at Michigan Stadium. Though it might be difficult to do some rearranging, there would still be several months to put the event together. Since it earns the league the highest ratings of the year – higher than some previous Stanley Cup Finals games – the league would certainly benefit from it.
The players and the owners have gotten enough. Isn’t it time loyal fans who have stuck by the NHL during perhaps the lowest point in the league’s history get something in return?
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