Ice hockey fans fed up with NHL labor strife

Updated 13 December 2012
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Ice hockey fans fed up with NHL labor strife

Sitting in an ice hockey changing room, Steve Chase became the latest die-hard fan fed up with the NHL lockout.
Living in Los Angeles, Chase believed the league had squandered all the goodwill built in the area after the Kings won the Stanley Cup. His weekly games with friends became his only taste of the sport he loved because of the ongoing labor strife that has dragged on for months.
So he took a poll of his friends, then took a pledge:
“We’re not coming back.”
Not for good. Just not after the lockout is settled, not for a while.
Chase started the grass roots “Just Drop It” campaign that encourages fans to boycott one NHL game for every game canceled after Dec. 21. No tickets, no TV, no merchandise — not a minute or a cent spent on the league, punishment for what he believed are continued abuses of loyalty on their fan base.
He made a video and started a Facebook page, urging fans to click the “like” button and join the cause. More than 11,000 angry fans have joined since the weekend, a puck drop in the circle compared to the millions of fans who attend games, but the latest small sign fans won’t again be easily won back.
“People are trying to crush the NHL,” Chase said. “That’s not our goal. Our goal is just to get hockey back. Hopefully somebody somewhere cares about this and decides, ‘Guys, we’ve got to get back and talk.’ The fans are right.
“They’re fighting over our money.”
The days of letter writing and 30-second phone calls to sports radio stations have ballooned to steady streams of hashtags, Facebook posts and homemade videos from fans who just want to come in from the cold of this labor battle and watch slap shots and saves. They are exasperated over a work stoppage with no end in sight and little regard for the fans.
Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby understood why fans are upset over the third lockout in commissioner Gary Bettman’s 20-year tenure.
“Everyone’s got to be frustrated with the way this has gone,” Crosby said.
But for all the angry tweets, texts, threats and organized campaigns, fans will still pick up the TV remote and print out tickets as soon as the strife ends.
They always do. In every sport. Remember 1994? After the World Series was wiped out, baseball loyalists vowed never to return. Fueled by super-sized sluggers and retro ballparks, attendance topped 60 million in 1996, 70 million in 1998 and soared past 79 million in 2007.
The NHL, of course, can’t match those numbers. But the story arc is still the same. The NHL drew 20.8 million fans when the league returned in 2005-06 — 498,000 more than the total in 2003-04, the season before the lockout.
The NHL saw an attendance rise in each of the next three seasons and totaled a record 21.4 million fans in 2011-12.
The NHL is coming off its sixth consecutive year of record revenue, with a projection of more than $3.2 billion by the end of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs, the league said. Don’t forget, the NHL has a $2 billion, 10-year TV rights deal with NBC Sports Group through the 2020-21 season.
“Our fan support coming back last time was outstanding and we were probably a little bit surprised to see how good it was,” Penguins forward Craig Adams said. “That speaks to how much the fans love the game.”
The NHL clearly caught some breaks coming out of the last lockout.
The league marketed its comeback around rising stars like Crosby and Washington’s Alex Ovechkin. They added fan-friendly shootouts and the New Year’s Day Winter Classic. The league made the two-line pass legal to help bust up the neutral-zone trap and created chic commercials to appeal more toward casual fans.
This time — whenever the lockout ends — the league might be all out of tricks. They’ll need to dig. And it could take years to recover from the wreckage.
Some teams are trying to keep their brand alive among an increasingly uninterested public. The Philadelphia Flyers aired classic games and brought back former stars for autograph signings at a sports bar at the Wells Fargo Center.
While the Nashville Predators have stayed aggressive in developing benefits packages for season ticketholders, not every Predators fan feels appreciated. Tom Begley, of Franklin, Tennessee, canceled the two season tickets he has held since day one of the franchise.
“Hey, if I feel like it down the line and I want to buy tickets again I can do it,” he said. “Right now, I don’t know. I’m not convinced that hockey here in Nashville is going to be viable long-term. I am scared to death of what (union head) Donald Fehr is doing to the game and it’s a shame. It really is.”
All the bluster of a boycott is easier tweeted than done. Fans can’t quit Sid the Kid, Ovi, Big Z, The Warden, Phil the Thrill and The Doaner.
On opening night in January 2013 or October 2013 or November 2015, whenever, the teams will be back ready for the first faceoff.
So will the fans.
At least some of them.


‘Good, but not good enough’: Juan Antonio Pizzi on Saudi Arabia’s defeat to Uruguay

Updated 20 June 2018
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‘Good, but not good enough’: Juan Antonio Pizzi on Saudi Arabia’s defeat to Uruguay

  • A Luis Suaréz goal midway through the first half gave Uruguay a 1-0 win
  • Pizzi had spoken passionately about the need for his side to demonstrate a higher level of focus and performance

ROSTOV-ON-DON: Good, but not good enough.
That was what Juan Antonio Pizzi stated as he declared himself pleased with his team’s performance in the 1-0 defeat to Uruguay on Wednesday night.
But he lamented his side’s lack of firepower as they exited the World Cup after just two matches.
Pizzi had spoken passionately about the need for his side to demonstrate a higher level of focus and performance in Rostov-on-Don after losing their opening game 5-0 to hosts Russia in Moscow last week.
The Argentine got his wish with a display that saw the Green Falcons fight throughout and edge possession against a Uruguay side ranked 14th in the world.
A Luis Suaréz goal midway through the first half after poor goalkeeping from Mohammed Al-Owais, however, was enough to hand the Green Falcons a 12th successive World Cup defeat.
The result means that even with a win against Egypt on Monday, the Green Falcons are no longer capable of progressing to the knock-out stages from Group A.
“We had a lot of ball possession and were able to impose our style of play and distribution,” said Pizzi. “We conceded a goal from a random play and didn’t have the weapons or tools to try to equalize. We kept the ball well and weren’t really troubled defensively, but lacked that ability to score.”
Indeed, for all their possession, Saudi Arabia have managed just three shots on target in 180 minutes of football. Against Russia, they failed to muster a single effort on target and the managed just three against Uruguay, two of which came in the final minutes when they knew they had to score or face elimination. None of the three shots came from a striker.
“This is our weakness. We have good ball possession, but no effectiveness. We lack the depth and skill required to win these games,” Pizzi added. “We have that deficiency and have looked for solutions, but we haven’t quite come up with one yet. But that is one of the reasons great forward are in high demand and are the elite players in world football.”
Pizzi had made four changes ahead of the match, dropping goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf in favor of Al-Owais and introducing Ali Al-Bulayhi at the heart of the defense alongside Osama Hawsawi. Further upfield, Hattan Bahberi came in for Yahya Al-Shehri and Fahad Al-Muwallad replaced Mohammed Al-Sahlawi. The changes, particularly the inclusion of Bahberi, seemed to give the side more impetus in midfield.
“The difference between the performance in the first game and this game is enormous,” Pizzi said. “The only way to compete at this level is to play at the level we did here. And even then it was not enough even to get a draw. Undoubtedly there were other factors aside from the pressure of playing in the opening game that made a difference, but it’s true that the difference was enormous.”
Many critics had predicted a deluge of goals from the likes of Suarez and Cavani, yet both were kept at bay. Save for a couple of half-chances early on, neither came close to scoring until the 23rd minute.
A corner from Carlos Sanchez sailed into the area and when Al-Owais came for it but failed to connect with his punch, Barcelona forward Suaréz was left with the simplest of tap-ins. He was so caught off-guard, he actually looked surprised as he reeled away in celebration.
“I believe you cannot be relaxed in any match,” Suarez said when asked by a Uruguayan journalist whether he had taken it easy against the Saudis.
“We wanted to win and to progress to the knock-out stage and this game simply showed how difficult it is. That’s the World Cup for you though and we are obviously delighted with how we have performed so far to progress.”
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez did not share his striker’s sentiments.
“Saudi Arabia wanted to excel and give a better account of themselves after losing to Russia,” he said.
“They did that very well and we have to respect them. But what surprised me the most is how we played. We underperformed.”