By: Alyssa DiJoseph
With recent attention in sports being focused on the NFL replacement refs and arrival of the MLB’s postseason, many people have neglected an issue that could rock sports fans nationwide. September 15marked the beginning of the second game loss causing NHL lockout in the last eight years. The lockout began following the end of the collective bargaining agreement, the basic contract between the NHL owners and NHL Players Association (NHLPA). Despite the loss of an entire season as a result of the ’04-’05 lockout and a largely alienated fan base, a disagreement over how to split what has come to amount to over 3 billion in revenue has caused the cancellation of 82 games between October 11and October 24. NHL team owners would also like to lower or eliminate the salary cap “floor” for players and eliminate the guaranteed contract, which would give players less money and less security. This leaves the NHL and the NHLPA in a standoff with no sign of when it will end. The fans are wondering, “What happens now?” Will it be a repeat of the ’04-’05 lockout? Will we get to see a season at all? What can we do to shorten the process, if we can do anything at all?
Fans are nervous, and with good reason, which is why many are turning to social media to spread an anti-lockout message. A YouTube video entitled “Together We Can” (which I have included below – well worth the watch) is one such example. Created by hockey fan, Janne Makkonen, of Espoo, Finland, the video has gone viral. It was released at the end of August, and as of October 4 had just shy of 1 million views. The video chronicles memorable moments in the league and discusses some of the business issues behind the lockout, while simultaneously calling for fans to unite against the lockout and show the NHL owners how it affects them. Associate Professor at Simon Fraser University, Peter Chow-White, who studies the effects of social media on society, stated, “If the fans can show enough dissatisfaction and actually raise what could be considered to the NHL a threat to their ticket sales then they absolutely could have an impact.” Fans like Makkonen hope to do just that.
YouTube isn’t the only form of social media fans are using to express their dissatisfaction. The Facebook page “Fans Against NHL Lockout” has 22,266 likes. NHL Memes, a popular NHL fan page that allows people to create and submit memes about the league, has been posting memes about the lockout constantly, which garner thousands of likes. The Twitter handle @NoNHLLockout12 has 10,348 followers. Players and fans alike are tweeting about the lockout with hash tags like #NoLockout and #FansUnite. A petition (also created by Makkonen) has been started on change.org asking NHL commissioner, Gary Bettman, to end the lockout, and has acquired 31,910 signatures. The fans’ goal is to let the commissioner and the rest of the NHL owners know that they have the power to damage the NHL’s brand, and they will do it.
As the online movement pans out, only time will tell if social media is really as powerful as it has been made out to be. From here on out, it’s up to the fans to gather support and save the ’12-’13 season. And I hope they do, because I want the Devils to have another (less embarrassing) chance at the Cup.