When I was around 13/14 years old my dad took me to my first game. It was around 1990 and we finally had a minor league team back in Cleveland. We went opening night and I was hooked. He would tell me the stories from when he and my mom were season ticket holders back in the 60s/70s when hockey had a true home in Cleveland. This was when there wasn’t glass separating the fans from the ice – there was chicken wire. That way when two guys crashed into the boards the fans could grab at their jerseys through the holes. Oh, I wish I could have been there then….
I had the pleasure of passing all of that on to my son and sharing it with my new family. For a number of years we shared it with some amazing kids by helping to give them the opportunity to play the game at a higher level, all the while keeping them in a family environment. Billeting is tradition at many levels of hockey. People open their doors to strangers and treat them like they are their own. Even the pros do it – Sidney Crosby has lived with Mario Lemieux and his family for years. I believe this practice is one of the reasons why hockey players are so down to earth. You’d never find a rookie hockey player running around acting like Lebron James.
Now I hear rumblings of a lockout. My initial reaction, given the state of the economy right now? I don’t want to hear ANYONE talking about wanting more money. There’s a flaw in this, though. In the video below they state that the NHL made $3.3 billion dollars in gross revenue in 2011. Now, bear in mind there are some pretty hefty salaries to come from that – roughly half of that revenue goes to payroll with the avg salaries ranging from 1.3M on the low end (NY Islanders) to almost $3.2M on the high end (Buffalo Sabres). I can’t quite comprehend how athletic salaries got to where they are today. Meanwhile, hockey is a drop in the bucket compared to other major leagues (the NBA is easily twice that). The system of professional sports as a whole is broken. Mid-class people drop hundreds of dollars to take their families to watch these games (don’t even get me started on the concessions). How do you ever go back though?
The NHL supposedly wants players to receive a smaller portion of the record revenue that’s coming in. While I don’t agree with the amount of money moving through these systems, I say if the owners and league are going to continue to drive revenue to the levels it has been and beyond why shouldn’t the players continue to get increasing stock in that? They’re the ones who put their bodies on the line every day for our entertainment. They’re the ones who fill those stands. You can’t expect to fix just one part of a broken system.
So, beyond all that, I’m really not a sports person. I would never have imagined writing a post like this. But I watched this video and here I am this morning wrapping up a post that would probably be ripped apart by many the sports fanatic. I really could care less – I’m not interested in any debate. I just LOVE hockey.