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NHL fans vote with their wallets; ESPN talks Bettman, Fehr (The Vent)

(THE VENT is a forum for rants, raves, pleas and laments from hockey fans across the world about the NHL lockout. It runs every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. If you've got a take on the lockout and need to let it out, email us at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com, Subject: The Vent.)

First up is reader Donna Jones, who is willing to vote with her wallet:

I'm making this short and sweet. I could go on about how I've lived in Pittsburgh and been a Pens fan for 25 years, and how now my husband is living and working in Columbus, so I thought it would be fun and give us something to do when I go visit him to buy a partial Blue Jackets season ticket package, even though I don't know much about them and they're not a great team. So I bought a half season. I thought, hey, I'll give them a try and get to know them. And they're not on the ice alone, so it'll be a chance to see other teams play as well. It'll make the drive between Pgh and Cbus in February a little more tolerable if I have hockey at the end of it. My husband lives close to the Arena District, so hey, we could eat and drink down there, support the local businesses.

I bought tickets to the ASG. Fun times, right?

I also love the Blackhawks and had big plans to travel to Chicago a couple of times for games, including their season opener. I HAD TICKETS BEHIND THE BENCH AND EVERYTHING. Additionally, I was just about to purchase Pens, Hawks, and CBJ jerseys, and probably shirts and hats, too, when I realized stupidity on a profound level was going to be the order of the day.  So I haven't bought a single thing, and am sorely tempted to return my dog's Pens collar to the pet store.

I have a lot of disposable income, okay, and I wanted to spend some of it on the NHL.

Too bad for you now, suckers.

To sum up:

Dean NHL owners,

I don't really give a crap about the teams that are bleeding money, including the CBJ. (I want to give you my money, CBJ, and you're not letting me.)  If you, as a businessman, can't run an NHL franchise well enough to make a profit, then sell it and move on with your life. If you're not astute enough to hire competent hockey people to insure that you put a good product on the ice, get the hell out of the hockey business.

Seriously. It's just that simple. I don't care, at this point, about your inability to run a business or the excuses you claim make it so difficult to make a profit in non-traditional hockey markets. Cry me a river. Get out. Stop looking to the players to fix your problems for you. Stop making a lockout be your go-to plan. And now that the players have hired someone to hold you accountable, get over yourselves and your general incompetence and offer them a fair deal. Stop haggling and get the game back on the ice.

Then look at your culpability in all of this and get your own houses in order.

For the record, we really hope she doesn't return the dog collar. It's the little victims in the lockout that are hurt the most.

Eric B. has a comment about a recent edition of The Vent:

Jordan Munson raised a good point in the last edition of "the vent": what changes can the NHL make to excite the fans?   I humbly propose the "Blades of Steel" rule: losing a fight is a two-minute minor, and no penalty for winning.

Ah, but how does one determine the victor? The player who ends up on top in a fight? Do we leave it up to the linesmen? Which bench bangs their sticks loudest?

Here's Ulyssis Grant from Boston, worried about the NHL's heritage:

To the NHL Brass

I'm a Bostonian. when the Bruins won the cup in 1970 every kid in town wore a bruins cap, we played street hockey, traded hockey cards and grew up as life long Bruins fans.

Then a soulless owner and and equally heartless GM took us on a 38 year Stanley Cup drought. only the diehard fans remained,

BUT..................when the Bruins won the cup in 2010 the championship parade through the streets of Boston was the biggest sporting celebration in the city, ever.  hockey was back !!!

But now the lock out has killed the wave of popularity for hockey in this city. football comes on every Sunday for free, no cable needed and hockey is nowhere to be heard or seen.

Obscene tickets prices, cable only broadcast and now this lock out will kill the game. please see beyond your greed NHL owners and save a long and storied institution for our families and our heritage.

Boston is definitely one of those places where hockey risks reversing momentum.

Reader Tom is just sick of it all:

I'm so tired of it. Considering this night has involved a ton of drinking this message might carry extra emotion, I can tell you it does not carry artificial weight. I'm so tired of all of this, really. It's ridiculous.

Granted my knowledge of the actual nuts and bolts of negotiation might not be up to par with everyone else, but at some point I would assume someone would just take the best offer they can get. Also, to the owners, what balls they have thinking they don't have to pay someone the dollars that they CONTRACTUALLY AGREED TOO. I understand the ebbs and flows of the financial situations that occur, but why write a check your ass can't cash? I really have had it.

My dad vowed never to watch again after the 2004 lockout, and I just got him back into it, against his better judgment. Game 1 this year, Boston vs. Washington, with Chris Kelly scoring the OT goal is something I would never forget. It also showed the admission of my father, the excitement in his face, he could never quit on this game. But it quit on him. That pisses me off to no end. Regardless of what happens, owners will still be loaded, players will still be loaded.

Please, I beg of you, approve of any offer that seems halfway decent and get back to playing. Give me something to watch because a New England winter is so cold, dark, and lonely without it.

Here's James March from Buffalo with a screed against the lockout that includes liberal quoting from Wikipedia.

Dear Gary Bettman,

Knowing that it would be virtually impossible to arrange a sit-down, heart-to-heart-, face-to face, mano-et-mano with you, I submit it to the press to share with you, and for you to hopefully share with the owners.

NEGOTIATE WITH THE UNION 24/7, LOCKED IN A ROOM, TWO MEALS A DAY, THROW AWAY THE KEY UNTIL A DEAL IS REACHED. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

I grew up a baseball/Yankees fan. As a kid (10-14 yrs.) a transistor radio was strapped to my ear for almost every radio broadcast by Scooter Rizzuto; when I wasn't glued to the TV on Saturday afternoon for Pee Wee Reese & Dizzy Dean creating "entertainment" from the game-of-the-week. Yes, there was the trophy collection of Yankee baseball cards (HOW I wish I still had them!) individually persevered in their plastic sleeves, and the now rotten teeth from chewing all the bubble gum.

Too much History? What does this have to do with Hockey? Well you need to understand my love & passion for the game of baseball before we go back to hockey. Did it end in my childhood? No, emphatically NO!!! When I graduated from college I had the good fortune to interview for my "dream job" - Sports Management with a baseball team. Regret #1 in my life: I went into the "family business" instead. Oh, I forgot to mention my "scrapbooks" of Yankee clippings - I can still see in my head the one where Pitcher Mel Stottlemyre went 5-for-5 to help win his 2-hit shutout game.

OK, enough history - I think you get the point - I was a baseball junkie.

Do I still love & follow baseball and The Yankees? I could not tell you more than half the current NYY starting lineup, no clue as to the starting rotation or roster backups, and I typically watch only The World Series (maybe catch a few LCS games, never a regular season one) - but neither if there is something better to do.

Remember the MLB strike of '94? Here is a brief history for those who don't:

"The 1994—95 Major League Baseball strike was the eighth work stoppage in baseball history, as well as the fourth in-season work stoppage in 22 years.[1] The 232-day strike, which lasted from August 12, 1994, to April 2, 1995, led to the cancellation of between 931 and 948 games overall, and the entire 1994 postseason and World Series. The cancellation of the 1994 World Series was the first since 1904; meanwhile, Major League Baseball became the first professional sport to lose its entire postseason due to a labor dispute. The strike has been considered one of the worst work stoppages in sports history and it left the fans and the sports world outraged.[2]"

- "We felt in '94 we were pushed into it," said Donald Fehr, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association.

- commissioner Bud Selig acknowledged that the strike had torn an irreparable hole in the game's fabric.[13]

- The Montreal Expos' best season in their history was stopped by the strike.

- Chicago White Sox star Frank Thomas, said "I've had a career year, but I'm not going to finish it."[17]

Tony Gwynn had a chance to be the first to finish a season over .400 since Ted Williams

- cost Matt Williams of the San Francisco Giants a chance to beat Roger Maris' single season home run record.

- Arguably, the biggest storyline of the strike was the New York Yankees.[25][26] .....the strike cost their captain, Don Mattingly, his best chance at his postseason debut in his 13-year career.[27][28]

- the use of replacement players for spring training and regular season games was approved by baseball's executive council on January 13  .....Declared Selig, "We are committed to playing the 1995 season and will do so with the best players willing to play."

- On March 28, the players voted to return.....Attendance at the games plummeted, as did television ratings, ....fans who showed up demonstrated their anger and frustration.[43] .....The strike was seen as the worst work stoppage in sports history and it left the game, the fans, and the sports world shaken and angry.[39] "

-(above taken directly from Wikipedia)

OK, enough about baseball...the thing is, Hockey is NO DIFFERENT! The NHL WILL lose fans FOREVER, like MLB lost me at that moment (and continuing through today) almost 20 years later. Without fans you have no sport. Will the majority of fans come back, of course. The thing is, do you REALLY need to take the path bath sides have??? Inevitably, both sides are going to come to some kind of agreement - that is a a given.

SO WHY NOT SOONER THAN LATER?????????????

Which brings me back to my original point:

NEGOTIATE WITH THE UNION 24/7 , LOCKED IN A ROOM, TWO MEALS A DAY, THROW AWAY THE KEY UNTIL A DEAL IS REACHED.  It will come SOONER, rather than later, this way. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! Common sense should prevail.

James M March

Former Buffalo Sabre season ticket holder for many years.

P.S. - Hockey is NOW my favorite sport - will it be if the season is cancelled? ......I hear that Lacrosse is very exciting and inexpensive!

Also, I have an idea that could revolutionize scoring (more goals) in hockey without changing the game or equipment at all - I will be glad to share it with you if you want to sit down and talk about it.

Finally, here's … ESPN?! Yep, John Saunders, a hockey dude, closed out The Sports Reporters on Sunday:

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