Seven ways the NHL can legitimately apologize to its fans

Actions would speak louder than words if NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman really wants to apologize to fans.. (captcanuk/Wikimedia Commons)

Actions would speak louder than words if NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman really wants to apologize to fans.. (captcanuk/Wikimedia Commons)

By: Chris Messina

@cmessina85

The NHL has ticked a lot of fans off. Heck, how could the paying customer not be mad this is third time in the last 17 years the NHL has missed significant time do to a labour dispute? Whose money are the fighting over? The fans!

To make matters worse Gary Bettman offered a half-hearted apology at the conclusion of the lockout that lasted approximately four months. I’m sure every die-hard hockey fan saw or heard what he said and cringed. After all this was the same guy leading the charge on this greed-led lockout. On the flip-side, actions speak louder than words and the league along with its players will get a chance to show the fans that they are truly sorry.

Here are seven ideas I have on how the league could say they are sorry to the fans.

1. Offer free internet and Center Ice packages. If they are sorry and want to make it up to the fans the least they can let them do is let them watch every game played this coming season free of charge in the comfort of their own home or in front of their computer.

2. Cap ticket prices. If you remember back to the missed season in 2004-05 one of the arguments making the salary cap not just in hockey but all sports look like a cash grab for owners was that gives them a fixed number their rosters annual payroll annually but ticket prices could still be raised. Part of this problem is that the fans willingly fork over the money and yes, I know this isn’t going to happen. However, if the league is truly sorry, would it too much to ask them to guarantee season ticket holders an annual price over the long haul?

3. Stop charging ridiculously high prices for exhibition games. Again part of the problem is that fans pay the money, but this post isn’t discussing that. I personally have never paid for an NHL pre-season game and I can promise you I won’t. If the price of tickets was reasonable I might not have problem checking out some prospects that most likely won’t see when the meaningful games start up. It would be a nice gesture by the league practically let the fans in for free next fall because the games mean nothing and very rarely are enough stars dressed. Then when the top players are dressed they are using the games to condition themselves for the regular season and aren’t playing like they would in a game that counted in the standings.

4. Mark down all NHL apparel 75%. Let’s face it anything with that authentic trademark on it is drastically overpriced. The profit on clothing is ridiculous in general. It doesn’t cost much to manufacture yet hats, t-shirts, jerseys etc. cost a pretty penny.  Marking it down for a while would be a nice way to say sorry to the fans.

5. More autograph sessions with marquee players. Teams visit a lot of car dealerships and sporting goods stores to hold autographs for their fans, but usually the players are rookies or are a little farther down the depth charts. It would be nice to see teams do this with their big names more often. That way it wouldn’t come off as almost being a hassle or an event they really don’t want to attend.

The NHL can help a lot of youth players by making the game easier and cheaper to play. (tabrandt/Flickr)

The NHL can help a lot of youth players by making the game easier and cheaper to play. (tabrandt/Flickr)

6. Give a small percent of the NHL’s profits to local hockey organizations. Hockey is an expensive sport to these days and not every family can afford it. There was a time when it was a rite of passage as a Canadian to play the game, but a couple of factors have changed that and one of the reasons is the cost. The NHL reportedly turned $3.3 billion in profits last year; if the league donated one percent of that to minor hockey throughout North America it would be $33 million. I’m sure that’s enough to help a couple more kids play the game.

7. Open up all practices to the public. Fans love going out and watching NHLers practice, probably because it lets them get up close and personal to their favorite players. We’ve already seen fans out in large crowds to watch their favorite teams, most notably being the Oilers outdoors scrimmage in Edmonton. Why not give the fans a chance to do this on a regular basis? Throw in an opportunity for the fans to take pictures and get autographs with and from their favorite players.

The league probably won’t implement all of these ideas to a dime, but it would be nice to see a real honest effort. Especially from those that didn’t seem to care much about their fans even two weeks ago.

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