Wyant: My Season as a Fan

Wyant: My Season as a Fan

OneSmugPug makes his first contribution of the season as we barrel towards the playoffs…

By Todd Wyant

Here we are at the end of another regular season.   Let us not forget how this brief season came about, another dreaded NHL work stoppage, not the longest in NHL history, but still, the 4th one in 20 years.  I have to admit as a fan, that I was pretty bitter about it.  I made up my mind as soon as the lockout was a real situation; I immediately cancelled everything related to spending money on “The National Hockey League”.

  1. I cancelled my Center Ice Package through DirecTV
  2. I cancelled my orders for NHL 13 for X360 and PS3
  3. I cancelled a trip to Pittsburgh early on in the season
  4. I cancelled a jersey order, I am usually good for 1 or 2 jerseys a season
  5. I completely ignored anything NHL related and focused on The Barclay’s Premier League (Manchester United fan for over 2 decades… and what a fantastic season they’ve had)
  6. I spent more money on BPL merchandise this year than I have in past 3 years combined

So I was perfectly fine with moving on with something else that I enjoyed just as much as hockey.  In other words, I still really don’t care who won the “Millionaires versus Billionaires” fight because the only ones to truly have to pay the price, figuratively speaking, were the fans.

Naturally, all “good” things would come to an end… The lockout was over and the NHL was going to play a shortened season with no inter-conference play, a total of 48 games to be played by each team and Winnipeg still playing in the Eastern Conference.  Of course, the announcement for Center Ice package came relatively quickly, $60 for the season, which really wouldn’t be a bad price. That is of course, you are a fan of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who had quite the extensive schedule of national TV broadcasts, thus keeping me in the realms of not giving the NHL any money.  This is really all fine and dandy with me but then the “We’re Sorry” messages and the “incentive” programs to placate the masses.  It just really seemed like one big payoff to get people in the door to spend money on typically high priced merchandise. I reserve my more intense remarks regarding “Ticket Exchange” for another forum. Needless to say, I am not a huge proponent of what appears to be league/team sanctioned ticket scalping, but I digress…

Then it happened… the games started and as luck would have it, the Penguins were always on my television, thanks to that heavy national broadcast schedule of theirs.  I watched these games, I watched Sidney Crosby set out on such a scoring tear to start the season and Chris Kunitz was leading the league in goals scored instead of goals overturned.  It was roughly about the 10th game of the season when I realized that I was supposed to be really upset with these people. “Why the hell am I supporting this?” I kept asking myself.  I still hadn’t buckled on the spending money part of my protest but I was watching the games. I can’t remember the last time I cared about a game in February when it’s the lull of the hockey season and right before the push to the playoffs and yet, here I was, glued to the TV pretty regularly watching the Penguins play.  I was then reaching out to known season ticket holders to see if anyone would sell me seats to the yearly game that falls around my birthday. I took my daughter, once again, to see the Penguins play the Rangers in early April.  Seriously, what the heck was going on here, why am I not nearly as angry as I once was?

The answer was simple, I missed hockey and the shortened season put bigger emphasis on each game being played. It was spectacular, it felt like all of the good games in a season, you know, almost like every NHL team was actually in a race for the playoffs from the start.  INCONCEIVABLE! This was really fun hockey to watch, very enjoyable, I almost forgot what I was upset about to begin with. I was really on a roll at this point; I managed to get tickets at face value and I took my daughter, once again, to see the Penguins play the Rangers in early April.  I won’t even begin to touch on the amazing trade deadline work by Ray Shero and his staff.  If there is a better group that understands how to wield the salary cap better than these guys, then I have yet to see them. The “Iginla to Boston” debacle was nothing short of hilarious due to similar feeling s felt just prior to Jaromir Jagr signing in Philadelphia last year.  Now I am truly stumped, I’m supposed to be protesting but now I am fully fledged and committed to the enjoyment of this shortened season.

The Pens just played their final game of the regular season, an 8-3 spanking of the Carolina Hurricanes and now I find myself feeling a bit of sadness. Next season brings realignment and 80+ games… this means going back to a few months of meaningless games in December, January and maybe February. This means meaningless inter-conference games that will most likely not make much difference when it comes time to decide playoff standings. This means going back to the way it used to be; the way that brought on not one, but four work stoppages in 20 years.  Is this what anyone really wants?  I know my ability to resolve this thing really needs a long rest before having to cope with another work stoppage. Yes, NHLPA, I’m looking at you not attempting a strike in the next 5 years.

Lastly, realignment, changing the divisions and dropping the region based names for them is a step in the right direction by the league, now just complete the cycle and rename them the historical names they so rightly deserve and make that a step in good faith to regain my confidence. I know some teams have announced it, but raising season ticket prices for next season to recoup losses for this year is an awfully terrible precedent to set, considering how much the fans have already paid for a reduced season that they have no reason to accept any accountability for.

And here are just a few of my favorite parts and quotes of the 2013 NHL Season:

1.      “We’re not making money, and that’s one reason we need to fix our system. We need to fix how much we’re spending right now. [The Wild’s] revenues are fine. We’re down a little bit in attendance, but we’re up in sponsorships, we’re up in TV revenue. And so the revenue that we’re generating is not the issue as much as our expenses. And [the Wild’s] biggest expense by far is player salaries.” — Craig Leipold, Minnesota Wild owner, to Star Tribune on April 11, 2012

2.      “This guy should be kicked … He doesn’t belong in the league. He belongs somewhere where the goons play,” said an emotional Melnyk. “Get him in the Central league. He can be a $60,000-a-year guy playing pick-up hockey there. The guy does not deserve … He’s got one purpose. I remember when this happened with Spezza. I said, ‘If these are the rules, I just want to know.’ We’ll play with the same rules. Make sure you have one or two goons whose job is to do this either intentionally or unintentionally.”The same guy that employs Chris Neil

3.      “Bouwmeester, Blues clinch playoff berth” – Can’t lie, I fell in love with this team this season.

4.      ”I’m part of a team of owners, so I definitely felt we all needed to be united in the things we wanted to get for the league,” Pegula said. ”Deep down inside, you have to help some of these teams that are really struggling. That’s how you keep a league, or we’ll be back to the Original Six before you know it. It was worth it for the health of keeping a 30-team league. I told Gary some things that I’ll keep to myself.”  – Terry Pegula

5.      “The Nashville Predators have retained franchise defenseman Shea Weber, agreeing Tuesday to match the offer sheet Weber signed with the Philadelphia Flyers last week. On July 18, Weber, a restricted free agent, agreed to a 14-year, $110 million contract with the Flyers”

6.      Sergei Bobrovsky entering Vezina Trophy equation…. And I traded him to Mr. Metzer early on in our fantasy hockey season. Metz, obviously saw something a few others, like myself, didn’t.

7.      And last but not least….

Flyers will miss the playoffs for first time since 2007