Lockout leaves Flames fans feeling bruised
Dispute leaves bad taste in some mouths
CALGARY — For 113 days, Calgary hockey fans have endured the absence of an NHL season.
But with a tentative agreement in place between the league and the players’ association, not everyone is celebrating. While the deal — if ratified — will salvage the hockey season, it may come too late to salvage some fans’ bruised feelings.
“The damage for this fan has been done. I will watch on TV but no more money for game tickets or merch from me,” one Calgarian vented on Twitter.
“Lost much respect for league & PA. Until Bettman is gone I will not give them my $,” another wrote.
“It’s a shame, but at this point it I have lost interest in our NHL team. The fans have been let down,” tweeted one more.
Kirsten Lander told the Herald the way fans have been treated throughout the course of the lockout is “disheartening.”
“I am a huge NHL fan — that’s always been a big part of my life,” Lander said. “But right now, I just think they haven’t really earned the respect of a lot of fans.”
Lander said she’ll still watch hockey once the season resumes, but at a pub or a sports bar rather than the Saddledome.
“Instead of giving my money to the NHL directly, I’ll just go and support some of those small businesses,” she said. “I know some of them have been suffering since the lockout began.”
Derrick Jacobson, a self-described “diehard” Flames fan and season ticket holder, said he’s not sure he’ll renew his tickets next season.
“I missed it for the first month and figured once they started playing again, I’d get right back at it, but it really doesn’t matter to me at this point,” Jacobson said, adding he’s taken up going to Hitmen games in the NHL’s absence and has enjoyed them just as much.
Ken King, president and CEO of the Calgary Flames, said he’s well aware that some fans are angry.
“We’ve had lots of feedback — lots of support, lots of encouragement, but also lots of aggressive comments, lots of vitriolic comments,” King said. “Some people are very unhappy.”
King said he believes the Flames’ performance on the ice will go a long way toward influencing the speed at which disgruntled fans return to the fold.
There are some fans, however, who are already willing to forgive and forget.
Luke Hann said that for him, Sunday’s news of a deal was like a “second Christmas” and he’s thrilled that a 48 to 52 game season could still be in the works.
“Watching NHL hockey is one of the best things in my life, other than family,” he said.
Hann said he expects Canadians’ love affair with the NHL will continue, and the 2012 lockout will be remembered as nothing more than a bump in the road.
“I don’t think hockey’s going to be damaged,” Hann said. “I don’t know a single hockey fan that wouldn’t want to sit in the Saddledome and take in a Calgary-Edmonton game on a Saturday night. I just don’t see it happening.”
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