Meredith Stevenson wanted a voice in the National Hockey League lockout and to get it the lifelong fan made what she described as a gut-wrenching decision.
She and her husband Dean cancelled the pair of Vancouver Canucks season-tickets they had held for 14 years.
“The last lockout (in 2004-05) didn’t seem to bother me as much,” the North Vancouver resident said Thursday. “Now that this is kind of the second time around and we are faced with the same old argument, I just found myself feeling increasingly frustrated.
“My husband and I have been evaluating how we can be heard in all this because we are just a little bit fed up with it. Even though we are huge fans — we never miss a game — it just got to be the only way we felt we could have a voice.”
So late last week, Stevenson called her account representative with the Canucks and told him they were giving up their cherished lower-bowl seats at Rogers Arena. And as difficult a decision as that was, Stevenson said she found it almost liberating.
“I felt like I’ve done all I can to make my point,” she said. “As a consumer there’s nothing we can do other than not consume the product. So I just thought if that’s the only way, that’s what I’ll do. It’s going to be painful. What if the Canucks next year win the Stanley Cup and I am not going to have tickets. It’s going to be devastating for me, but it feels really good to do it. It feels good to have a voice and be able to say, you know what, I’m not going to consume it, I don’t agree with this any more.”
Hockey has always been a big part of Stevenson’s life. She plays twice a week and was the first and only female producer at EA Sports on its NHL team. The 38-year-old mother of two young children now owns and operates an event planning company.
Stevenson said she and her husband really don’t have sides in the NHL dispute, which began Sept. 15 when the league locked out its players.
“I am too angry to sympathize with either side right now,” she said. “I’m really tired of the bickering back and forth. I know the players probably got a little bit screwed in the last contract and they want to come back and make sure the same thing doesn’t happen again. But to be honest, as everyone says, it’s the millionaires bickering with the multimillionaires. It just doesn’t sit well with the majority of people.”
When she cancelled her tickets, Stevenson’s account rep with the Canucks asked her to send an email that he could pass on to Canucks management. She did that, outlining her reasons in very passionate terms.
“This is not the sport I fell in love with at the age of 4 and have been so dedicated to my entire life,” Stevenson said in her letter to the Canucks.
“I’m not a season-ticket holder who makes 250K a year. Having these tickets is not merely a drop in our financial bucket — it is a significant investment and expenditure for our family. I’ve watched the Canucks grow into an amazing team and I love them with every ounce of my being. BUT, I really feel like I need to make a stand here. The incessant greed of players and owners alike has left a very bad taste in my mouth.”
Stevenson has not yet received a response from anyone in Canuck management, but general manager Mike Gillis said late Thursday he understands the passion of the team’s fans.
“I think people are frustrated, not unlike us, we’re also frustrated,” Gillis said. “I think everyone around the game is frustrated to a certain measure. It gets played out in a variety of different ways.
“Our season-ticket holders are extremely important and we value their opinions at a very high level. It’s an unfortunate set of circumstances, but we have passionate fans and passionate people will display their emotion in a variety of ways.”
Gillis said Canucks, who have a lengthy season-ticket waiting list, have had “a limited number of season-ticket cancellations.”
Stevenson said the tickets were costing her family nearly $11,000 a year, plus as much as $8,000 for playoff tickets. They had put down roughly $3,700 towards this season’s tickets, which will now be refunded.
“Our season-tickets are a big investment for us,” Stevenson said. “It always hurt a little bit when those payments came due. I think that’s also why it feels a little bit liberating to be honest.”
She’s not sure what her family will do with that extra money.
“I don’t know,” she said. “It will probably all be going on our line of credit.”
Stevenson knows she and her husband have lots of company in being frustrated fans. One of her friends, West Vancouver video game producer Steve Rechtschaffner, on Wednesday started a petition that asks fans to boycott the NHL and all of its products for three years unless hockey is being played by Christmas.
Like Stevenson, Rechtschaffner feels like fans just don’t have a voice.
“I guess the word would be frustration,” Rechtschaffner, himself a former Canuck season-ticket holder, said when asked why he started the petition. “I think a lot of people feel like they are frustrated by the whole situation and have no leverage, don’t have a dog in the fight.
“And I thought I am willing to commit to the idea that if these people really don’t make an effort to get it solved and get it going by Christmas I want to let them know that I am willing to commit to not spending any money on their product for three years.”
His petition only had a handful of signatures on Thursday, but Rechtschaffner thinks numbers will swell with some media exposure and word of mouth.
“If you’re a fan of NHL hockey and are feeling disrespected and taken for granted, this is a way to let the owners and players know that there will be long- range damage to them, that they should take into account before blowing this entire season up,” Rechtschaffner’s petition says.
A link to it can be found at www.change.org/petitions/n-h-l-and-n-h-l-p-a-end-the-lockout-by-xmas-or-you-won-t-see-my-money-for-the-next-3-years.
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