It should be a shock to no one that throngs of hockey fans are lining up to watch National Hockey Leaguers practice at their respective rinks now that the lockout is over and training camps are underway.
For those surprised or bored with the idea of fans watching players run drills, well, you shouldn’t be.
Many attempts over social media to boycott the NHL for the season or just the first few games may come to fruition for some former fans, but don’t forget: this is an entertainment business.
Why do people watch hockey? The same reason why people play fantasy sports, create art, listen to music and delve into the lives of reality TV stars; it’s an escape.
An escape from the nine-to-five, problems at home, responsibilities, a chance to act as they feel or just to change up a day-to-day routine and really, who can blame them?
For centuries, human beings have used various methods of sport and entertainment to, well, be entertained, to relax, and give their minds a break from the stresses of their lives and today, since the NHL has returned after such a lengthy break, it’s likely a lot of people are clawing at the chance to finally return to their happy place.
As well, it might be the only opportunity for some families to see their favourite Calgary players up close, because making a night of a Flames game isn’t exactly budget friendly for a lot of people.
Some franchises are trying to make nice with fans who have returned after 113 days of no hockey by treating them to discounts or free (fill in the blank), but so far, no club has outdone what the Florida Panthers have offered to their fans.
The franchise is offering season tickets starting at $7 a game plus a free jersey and free parking which far exceeds what’s being offered from other clubs: free ‘select’ concessions for the first four games, half off merchandise in training camp, or free tickets to see team scrimmages before the season begins, among other things.
In Calgary, President Ken King spoke during the days following the tentative agreement to end the lockout about how the Flames had a lot of work to do to make it up to fans that have been patient and unwavering in their support.
“Our season ticket holders have been very patient and very loyal and we’re over the moon about that and we don’t in any way take that for granted or as anything other than people who love hockey,” said King on Sportsnet 960 in Calgary.
“I think the best form of appreciation is to put a high performing team on the ice and show them that what they were waiting for was worth the wait.”
On the Flames website, they have posted a link that they’re ‘giving away daily prizes of jerseys, tickets, gift cards and a VIP experience, but outside of that offer, there hasn’t been a public offer to season ticket holders or fans, yet. King did mention on Sportsnet 960 that the organization had been in touch with season ticket holders during and after the lockout, but details of any special promotions or offers haven’t been released.
With only a few days until the NHL season begins, there isn’t much being offered to the average fan elsewhere either. In fact, for some clubs, not Calgary, ticket prices are being raised (the nerve!) by a couple dollars each. Is that how you pay back the people who support your team?
It could be noted that a lot of fans seem to want to be welcomed back to the season with free merchandise or heavy discounts in replace of an apology for taking away their beloved NHL season for a few months, but will that happen?
For some clubs, it can be argued, they don’t need to offer anything to know they’ll still fill the building to start the season – Toronto, New York, Los Angeles – but would it make fans happier to know a franchise is willing to provide them with a better experience for spending their money after over one hundred days away?
It’s an easy answer: people like free stuff.
Unfortunately, only so much can be discounted after losing a great deal of money with the lockout and only time will tell how fans will be greeted and welcomed into the 2013 season. It’s a nice reminder to fans as well; that the business of sport is not only an entertainment business, but also, it’s a money business.