Disenfranchised: the new Canadian hockey fandom

By Greg Ellis

Calgary finds itself at the very epicenter of the most dismayed hockey fan base perhaps in all of Canada. On the proverbial heels of our team’s playoff rally, the fervor in Calgary over hockey runs deep. 17th Ave., known for its top-end restaurants, fashion boutiques and peaceful ambience became an icon: “The Red Mile.” The energy on the Red Mile was infectious. With this as our framework, our mentality and perception of the lockout must be furthered examined.

Dubbed “the billionaires vs. the millionaires vs. the average Joe,” the lockout will surely have victims but this needs to regulated by context. Hockey teams are typically owned by the super affluent, oil tycoons, retired executives and other elite who benevolently purchase hockey teams to give back to the city. While the generosity of the rich is admirable, it seems apparent that for us to expect hockey owners (even the outstandingly wealthy) to take significant losses year after year to exorbitant player salaries is ludicrous. Player greed is the real culprit.

Arthur Levitte’s report admonished that the path to profitability in the NHL could not viably be achieved without salary caps. Unfortunately, greed stands in defiance to reason.

The discontent of hockey players is puzzling at best. With the vast majority of teams reporting losses or marginal earnings what arguments do the players have? Relatively, the salaries of other professional athletes are larger.

Although this is a specious argument as any comparisons are ultimately false as the revenues for other major sports times, and their subsequent earnings are markedly larger

Morever, the fans walk dangerously. Their actions border on absurdity as they lament the potential loss of their entertainment, while simultaneously ex- pecting to enjoy the games at the low premium of their home television. The burden is on them to eagerly purchase $100 tickets, $7 beers and $125 team jerseys. The owners of hockey teams may seem philanthropic however the nexus of their business acumen and history of accumulating wealth should be ample inculpatory evidence that they would not stand idly as their return on investment plummeted into the red.

The true victims are those whose livelihoods depend directly on the revenue generated from hockey. The minimum wage worker at the concession, bar service staff, and maintenance staff etc. at the expense of unchecked players’ avarice. With ancillary effects in the hotel industry, parking industry and merchandising industries, the economic deva- station will only continue. After the baseball strike, owners in the short term perhaps authored their own demise as resentment gathered even after play resumed. The fans voted with their dollars and are increasingly absent at games. Furthermore, the potential for massive declines in advertising revenue related to games will occur, leading to a trickle down effect of lower advertising corporate revenues and most inevitably lost jobs at the even the upper echelons of the advertising industry.

Noam Chomsky saw sporting events as a component of a larger propaganda machine. The love for one’s team transforms into passionate civic pride, tenuous nationalism and sports related and influenced violence. As someone who played amateur hockey for almost 7 years I could not resist the contagious enthusiasm of Calgary’s play- off run, however without being at a bar or pub I would have never even known the World Cup was on.

Hockey is our national sport, one of great achievement and pride, but it is still just a game. The demagogic appeals from the so called fan victims are rich yet lack any substance. If your life is that adversely affected by hockey, where your very happiness depends on a hockey season, your life is in desperate need of content. I will not lose sleep over the lockout, will you?