Guest blogger: Evan


Dear Commissioner Bettman,

I am just a fan.  I love the sport of hockey more than any other and I am writing this letter to provide you one fan’s perspective on the pending expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

I was born in 1981, into a family in which my father had just fulfilled his life-long dream of earning enough money to afford Rangers season tickets in the old green seats on the eighth floor of Madison Square Garden.

When I was three, we moved to Long Island, and I spent much of my childhood returning the good-natured schoolyard taunts of my friends, most of whom were Islanders fans.  I was lucky enough to be sitting next to my father, my mother and my brother on June 14, 1994 when the Rangers won their one and only cup since 1940.  Our tickets that night – seated 25 rows behind the 7th Avenue net –  for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals were $60 per person (!).

In the late summer of 1996, I returned to the Garden to watch Team USA play Russia in a World Cup of Hockey preliminary round game during what is still to this day, the greatest hockey tournament I have seen in my lifetime.

In 2006, upon the death of my father, the season tickets he had held for 26 years were passed on to me and since then, my wife (of one year) and I have continued on the Rangers family tradition as a loyal season ticket subscriber.  Further, in 2010, I attended three of the four Olympic quarterfinal games and one semifinal game in Vancouver, I attended the Winter Classic last year in Philadelphia and over the past five years, have averaged attending roughly 30 home games a year plus the playoffs.

The point of all of this background is to say, like so many others, I live hockey, I follow hockey and the beginning of the NHL season is the highlight of my year, each and every year.

I want to be clear and unequivocal about my thoughts on the current stalemate of negotiations.  Prior to the 2004 lockout, I, and many of my fellow fans, agreed that something fundamentally needed to change to ensure the long-term financial health of the league and its franchises.  Further, while the lockout, the ultimate capitulation of the NHLPA and the resultant loss of a full season infuriated many, lots of us, including myself also appreciated that perhaps the lost season was a necessary evil to get the league and its finances on a road to long-term success.  In fact, I admit that I was a fan who was snookered into believing your and your clients’ suggestion that perhaps the “cost certainty” achieved in the new CBA would actually result in moderated ticket price increases or God forbid, perhaps seasons of no increase.

In 2004, we, the fans, trusted that you and the owners needed “cost certainty” to ensure the league’s long term success.  But today, as a result of my own personal experience and listening to you and your team during this past summer, you have laid bare that “cost certainty” was nothing more than an attempt to create “expense certainty” and “profit certainty,” players be damned, fans be damned and prudent financial management be damned.

How have I arrived at this conclusion?  After the lockout, the Rangers, who hadn’t made the playoffs since 1997, actually lowered my ticket prices from $78 to $65 a seat (in the same seat my which my father paid $60 in the 1994 Finals).  After making the playoffs in 2005-2006, regular season ticket prices have gone from $65 to $78 to $89 to $95 for two seasons, then to $120 and now to $133 this coming season for basically the same seat (I am in new Section 114 in the partially transformed MSG).  This means my ticket prices will have increased by 106 percent since 2006.

Contemporaneously, during this past CBA, league revenues have grown by more than 83 percent from about $1.8 billion in 2005-2006 to $3.3 billion in revenues during the 2011-2012 season while player salaries have naturally grown by the same percentage (the 2005-2006 salary cap was $39 million while this year’s Cap under the about-to-expire CBA would have been $71 million) due to the fixed 57 percent they receive each year.

Further, all of the non-ticket revenue generators have increased over the life of the CBA.  National TV revenue from Comcast/NBC is three times per annum greater than what the league received from OLN/Versus at the beginning of the CBA.  Further, TV ad revenue, Winter Classic related revenue, merchandise sales all have increased over the life the CBA; the NHL Network was born and is now growing, etc.

And yet, at the end of the day the league wants to lower salaries, states it’s losing money and is willing to cancel more games to extract another round of onerous and harsh concessions from the players who, lets all admit, took it on the chin during the last go-around?  These are the same players who make the game everything that it is.  They are the stars, the role players, fourth liners, maestros and grinders who make us appreciate a face-off win and penalty kill as much as a highlight-reel end-to-end rush.   The players, not the owners, are the reason we love the sport as we do, the reason we love our teams as much as we do, and the reason we, the fans want to be ambassadors for teams, the players and the sport we love so much.

Therefore, this time around, I do not trust you, your deputies or the owners and any of your rhetoric.  You have stated that the owners are paying the players too much.  Will the owners commit to returning a portion of any “savings” or reduction in revenue earned by the players to the fans in the form of lower ticket prices or lower concession prices?  Yeah, right…

This time, I am firmly with the players.  If it costs a week, a month, or even a season for the players to preserve their right to earn their market value, to enter into guaranteed long-term contracts that protect them against the career-ending injury that is always one elbow or high stick away, to ensure that teams that need financial assistance get that help and that those that are able to thrive are able to thrive, then I, and my fellow fans support them.

As the Commissioner of the NHL, you wear many hats but one of them is head of our league, the fans’ league.  Without us, the owners are left with nothing but empty arenas, empty bank accounts and mounting debt service.  So as we approach Sept. 15, I implore you to do the right thing for the league, for the players and for the fans.   Make the deal that is there to be made and let’s start the season on time.


Evan B. Levine (New York, NY)


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  1. the last lockout, and this upcoming one, have nothing to do with the players. this is owner vs owner. large market vs small market.

  2. Evan – I’ve yet to see anyone sum up this disaster any more succinctly than you did. Great read and if you haven’t already, send it to little Napoleon, preferably printed on a strychnine-laced letterhead.

  3. Leetchhalloffame on

    Great attempt Evan. Unfortunately Bettman is deaf, dumb and blind to real, die-hard hockey fans like us.

  4. Good morning all! Evan, that was tremendously tremendous!

    And thanks for the pics yesterday Carp. Sure wish I could have been there.

  5. Evan,

    I agree with you 100 percent. But the fans must hit back this time. At the least the fans should boycott the NHL after the lockout ends for as many weeks as the lockout lasted.

    Many in the media believe there will be no hockey until sometime between Dec 1 and Jan 1 so if that happens fans should decide if they want to come back late this season, next season or at all.

    We have strength in numbers and we can’t let another lockout go without a response. After eight years of losing a season the owners are right back where they started. They are making much more and charging the fans much more. The NFL and NBA got things done without missing much of the season. The owners must be punished if they think they can be so bold to cancel half a season in this economy.

    Power to the people!!

  6. Great article Evan. Hockey fans must hit back somehow. The owners clearly dont care about peoples jobs or the fans getting to see the game – they could work on under the current agreement but then they are threatening the lockout so that Sept 15th becomes a hard deadline, not a soft one – i can see their point on that, although it is a very selfish one.

    Dont stop buying tickets, then you are just punishing yourself and withdrawing from hockey completely, even when it does return. Maybe stop buying merchandise and other non-essentials. Will they let you in the arenas with your own drinks these days?

  7. Great post Evan, the recent proliferation of head injuries has increased the risk to the players, all the more reason that they should get fair market value. The owners are shrewd business people who, led by Bettman, will play hardball at the expense of many, including fans, players, concession people, ushers, etc. Just as in 1994, when a major media market had a Stanley Cup winner only to see a work stoppage, history now repeats itself in 2012. Yet, the owners do not seem to care about marketing the sport but only about squeezing every last dollar out of it.

    Also agree with CT Ranger-as a long-time fan since the late 1960’s, I so appreciate having access to every game on cable. However, this labor scenario, the rising ticket (and cable) prices have so disgusted me that I am dropping my MSG cable. Maybe I will come back, maybe I won’t but I just need a break right now, the whole thing is very discouraging.

  8. the only people you would be punishing by boycotting the NHL, would be yourselves. the NHL could care less about you, and you would be missing the game you love to watch. I for one will always come back to watch the games. they could play a one game regular season, and a 4 game playoff, and I would watch it.

  9. Jlone2Bubblehead on

    Random Thoughts :
    In the end, I dont care who does or doesn’t make what or for how long. I care about the cash that comes out of my pocket. The cash that helps me feel like im a part of something. Something that I love and have a relationship with. Even if it is only a one sided relationship. It is still something i am passionate about and miss when its not around.
    I think airing dirty laundry outside of the “meeting” is very unnecessary and cheapens the image of the league as well as the players. IF the added drama is designed to garner interest in the sport as a whole, [see NASCAR], I do not have an issue with that. As long as all parties understand that the “Drama-junkies” arent going to pay anything to watch the actual games.

  10. the owners are not shrewd business people. they are rich people that cannot control themselves so they need others to bail them out. it is called free market to make money and socialism to save them money. jeremy jacobs owner of the bruins(scum), newsflash control your payroll so limit what you pay the tyler seguins of the world. no 1 forced him to increase seguins salary.

    the small market owners want the big market owners to subsidize them. from the know it all grat business men what happened to the free market??? they are mega hypocrites.

  11. Stuart – the problem is that if Jacobs didnt give Seguin that contract then someone like Burke and the Maypole dancers would have, which is what drives the price up – the GM’s have the tools to screw each other over and the threat of one of them using it drives the price of a player up. If they want to reduce the salaries of younger players they should abolish the offer sheet for starters then they only have to negotiate against themselves or the threat of arbitration.
    The Owners got their “win” last time but they were too short-sighted to see where it might end up and these same owners are now giving out contracts to players with one hand while their other hand is stuck up Bettman’s butt and he’s telling them they need to give some of it back via rollbacks or escrow is disgusting in my book. The owners should be forced to honour the contracts that are already in place and build the salary cap figures and revenue proposals around that.

  12. Speaking of Jeremy Jacobs, that fraudulent criminal piece of carcillo Boston Bill Simmons claimed several years ago that he’d never watch or care about the Bruins again until their cheapskate owner started spending more money on the team. But being the lying scum he is, he jumped on the Bruins bandwagon as soon as they made it to the EC Finals a couple years ago.

  13. Good morning, Carp!

    Great post, Evan. I love the idea of the fans and players striking in solidarity with each other. Capitalism is ruining hockey. I call for a takeover! *LETS TAKE THE HOCKEY BACK!*


  14. Franklin Kistner on

    I hope they play 50 games this year. The games will be better and Evan and all you other ticket holders will get a break. The shot-blocking Blueshirts will not be so tired and beat-up come June.
    I love my Rangers! Have since 1964.

  15. I decided during the last lockout to stop supporting the NHL. Since the last lockout I can no longer afford to go to games or buy merchandise not the way I intended to acheive that. I still get MSG as part of my cable package but if I had to pay extra I wouldn’t. I was actually starting to change my thinking this last season but due to the looming lockout my opinion has not changed at all in fact if my financials change I will never buy another ticket ot tshirt. What really makes me angry that it took so long for the owners and players to even start negotiating. None of them care about the fans at all. I can only wish that owners and players could feel the sting of
    not getting money the way I have. I think the only way is to not buy their product.

  16. I’m 100% with you Evan. Nicely said. Season Tickets since ’81.. Never Forget 9/11 We are NYC and USA

  17. Hey all. Thanks for the feedback!

    The shame of the whole situation is that I don’t want to give hockey up. I love it, I love the sport, the atmosphere at MSG, the friends I’ve made with my section-mates, the memories I’ve made with my friends and family.

    I just feel like we’re being held hostage right now by a group of owners who not only are greedy but almost seem vindictive against the players and by extension the fans.

  18. Tony,

    Doan not a Ranger – reported to be going back to Phoenix. Emminger is a Ranger for one more year.

  19. Great post, Evan. Hard not to agree with what you said.

    I have a question for those of you who say that they will never watch or attend another NHL game if there is a lockout… who will you hurt by this? You wont watch the Rangers anymore? LOL yeah ok…

  20. I promise to not buy a single ticket to a Rangers game at Madison Square Garden this year/season if there’s a single game lost to a lockout. Good thing tickets are cheap to Panthers games down here in South Florida! Plus the Soon To Be Former BankAtlantic Center is the easiest arena I’ve ever been to to move down in. $15 upper-deck tickets quickly become $15 20th row behind the goal tickets. lmao

  21. Nice post, Evan. I’m proud that you avoided swear words in the general direction of the commissioner. Everyone involved should be embarrassed.

    I would like to never watch hockey again if there’s another lock-out. I will at least pout and wonder if we can organize a boycott of all home openers after this dumbness. Because this is how millionaires behave when they know there with always be revenue. What I will probably do is check out some more AHL games.

  22. Correction: As of yesterday The BankAtlantic Center previously known as Broward County Civic Arena, National Car Rental Center, and Office Depot Center is now The BB&T Center, formerly known as The BankAtlantic Center, Broward County Civic Arena, National Car Rental Center and Office Depot Center.

  23. If there’s a lockout I think I’m just going to watch the season through NHL13 on my PS3. I really miss hearing Bill Clement anyway.

  24. To all you young Dad’s and Moms, who are now bringing up young ones of your own, take it from someone who has raised three daughters and a son, and you will not believe how quickly they grow up, and move out and you are left alone to rattle around the house that housed them all through their childhood, adolescence, teens, and you are lucky if you get to see them now and then for special holidays, birthdays, etc., and I now have two grandsons, and 6 grand daughters, and we now
    follow THEIR children’s growing up up and away, and are themselves “empty nesters”.

    Cherish these days ( and nights!) of sleeplessness due to caring for the offspring(s) because they only come this way once in a lifetime. And may God bless every one of you and of yours.

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