NHL 2014 Stadium Series Evokes Extreme Backlash on Twitter

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If you are a hockey fan, you have probably heard the NHL’s recent announcement about their plans to have five additional outdoor games (in addition to the Winter Classic) during the 2014 season. See below for the tentative schedule:

Stadium Series Schedule

This announcement has been met with mixed reactions from agents, media, and fans. While some fans (like me) are thrilled to attend more outdoor games, others are against it. People against the “Stadium Series” argue one of a couple things:

1. The additional Stadium Series games will take away from the spectacle of the Winter Classic
2. More outdoor games=less special
3. The games are a ploy for the NHL to make more money from larger stadium capacity, increased viewing on TV, and sales of specialized merchandise

Other naysaying fans are simply hung up on how ice will be maintained in the Los Angeles climate.

Sporting News writer, Sean Gentille, wrote NHL Stadium Series a Gamble on Moneymaking Power of Outdoor Games, a blog post that discusses how additional outdoor games dilute the market. The article begins, “At some point in young adulthood, you figure out that, theoretically, you could eat birthday cake at every meal. Most people don’t.” While I see what Gentille is saying, the additional outdoor games are not under the label “Winter Classic”. The Winter Classic is still unique with the New Year’s Date, pre-game 24/7 episodes on HBO, intrigue for casual fans, and other festivities like the alumni games. I don’t know about everyone else, but I love cake all the freaking time.

Stadium Series games will be played both before and after February’s 2014 Sochi Olympics. While it is not confirmed that NHL players will be allowed to play in the Olympics, it is conceivable that these Stadium Series games provide a buffer for fans in case negotiations between the IOC, NHL, NHLPA, and IIHF head south (although I doubt that will be the case).

At this point, the Stadium Series is an experiment for the league. Employees know that one outdoor game works, so now it is time to try out more. The league is a business, remember? I am sure NHL bigwigs are hoping the games will bring in more hockey fans, create increased support after the lockout, and yes, rake in additional revenue. If the league can gain fans and increase TV viewing numbers after a horribly long lockout, why wouldn’t the Stadium Series work?

Everyone loves a little more hockey in their lives. And according to John Collins, the COO of the NHL, “No one would be more concerned about not screwing up a good thing than we would be”. Give JC a chance! (You see what I did there?)

Here are some of the best tweets I’ve seen from hockey agents and media discussing the Winter Classic and Stadium Series:

Allan Walsh, Octagon Hockey Agent Tweet

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Sidenote: I just joined the Pens Nation team at http://www.thepensnation.com. Be sure to keep an eye out for this banner on the website to see my posts!

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The Top 5 Biggest Losers of the NHL Lockout

If you are a hockey fan with a Twitter account you are most likely very familiar with painful complaining. It seems that every NHL beat writer, hockey sportscaster, and virtually everyone I follow from Canada has been lamenting the NHL lockout on Twitter for a couple of months. Is it deserved? Yes, absolutely. Will it change anything? Obviously not.

I am just as guilty as everyone else of producing these depressing tweets with the hashtag #EndTheLockout, but it is getting hard to stay optimistic. With the league and the NHLPA meeting tomorrow, I feel uneasy. Negotiations feel like they are getting down to the wire. Either there will be a shortened season or we will have yet another full-season lockout. The precedent the NHL has set for lockouts is a huge problem and there is speculation that fans might fight back this time. But with the most tribal fans in the US and Canada, would a Bruins or Canucks fan really stop buying season tickets and merchandise? Honestly, I don’t think so. The fans are clearly the losers in this battle between the owners and the players, but who else is losing?

Here are my top 5 losers in the 2012 NHL lockout (in no particular order):

1. The Fans– this is incredibly obvious. As a fan myself, I know just how awful this lockout is.

And as I waited to for the lockout to end during the Presidential election (which clearly didn’t happen), I secretly hoped someone in the audience at the debate would ask about what Romney and Obama would do if they were at the bargaining table. Although that question wasn’t asked at the debate (which in retrospect is a very good thing), Obama did talk about it on Jay Leno- and he was right on the money. Good job Barack, you got my vote. Thanks for addressing the most important issue plaguing America today.

 

2. Teemu Selanne- Selanne, an unquestionable future Hall of Famer, is 42 years old. He is at the end of his career and this lockout might cost him his last hurrah for the Ducks. When asked if he would not play in the event of a full season lockout, Selanne said this, “Probably. It’s hard to say for sure, but year after year it’s getting harder and harder to get ready for the season. When the season starts, it’s going to be fine. But doing all the right things at this age, that’s the hardest part. But, you know, I’m more sorry about this hockey world and these younger players. I would be sad to go out like this, but I got more than I really dreamed out of it.” Depressed yet? What about when Joe Sakic had this to say at his HHOF induction, “I lost a year of hockey. It would have been 21 years instead of 20. That’s what you lose.” Okay hold your tears Anaheim fans, I still have three losers left.

3. Small businesses with Ties to Hockey- This includes merchandise shops, bars, and restaurants around the unused arenas. One sports bar owner from Edmonton said this, “It’s like anywhere from $60,000 to $80,000 (in lost revenue) a month. And that’s just us, never-mind the big bars.” These owners are furious. I mean, the millionaire league owners and players fight over hockey related revenue, escrow, and make whole while at the same time putting Mr. Joe Shmo Hockey Man out of business? This Montreal man took his complaints to YouTube…

4. The Minnesota Wild- The Wild made potentially the move of the year with the off-season pick up of free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. No doubt Minnesota paid a ridiculous amount of money to do this, but there was a palpable excitement in the air. I watched on Facebook as my friends who are Twins fans posted about hockey (which is a huge deal). Will Minnesota be able to keep up the hype without any games? Maybe, but definitely not like what it would have been if the season had started on time. According to USA Today, “They have sold the equivalent of about 4,000 new season tickets since the day the 13-year, $98 million contracts for Parise and Suter were revealed, signaling the most-anticipated season in the franchise’s 12-year history. Thanks to the NHL lockout, though, the mute button has been pushed on the buzz.” And who likes a buzzkill? No one.

5. Team/League Employees- As a student studying Sports Industry Management, I really feel for the Team and League employees who are getting royally screwed over by the lockout. One day your job is secure and the next the St. Louis Blues are laying off 20 employees and dishing out pay cuts at the speed of light. Not to mention everyone trying to find a job in hockey (gotta love hiring freezes right when I am finishing graduate school). Some employees are being downgraded to four-day work weeks and some are taking permanent pay cuts. FAIL.

Other notable losers: The Pittsburgh Penguins who were favored to win the Stanley Cup, League sponsors, NBC Sports, and the City of Detroit.

And that’s how the cookie hockey season crumbles.