Hockey: We need you to end the lockout!

I have never been a hockey fan.  Maybe it’s because of being played on ice, or maybe because it doesn’t use a ball; possibly, it’s because hockey seems like a glorified version of boxing with extra padding.  Whatever the reason, I’ve never liked the sport, and I never will.

My home town of Raleigh got a professional hockey team in 1997, when the Hartford Whalers relocated.  Naturally, the team was renamed the Carolina Hurricanes; unnaturally, a place that receives an annual average of just seven inches of snow now had a hockey team.  I’ve been to one Canes game in my life.  It ended in a 3-3 tie.  Yes, many hockey games used to end in ties, and they had to change the rules a few years ago.  The only professional sport where this can still happen is football.  Nobody likes a game without a winner, so maybe this is also why I’ve never been drawn to the sport.

Yet another reason I’ve never liked hockey is because of lockouts.  In the past 20 years, the NHL has had four of them; one wiped out the entire 2004-05 season, and one is cancelling the current 2012-13 season.  How can a professional sport skip an entire year of playing?  Players and owners are making millions of dollars in a billion-dollar franchise, yet they can’t settle on how to divide the money?

Unfortunately, a sports lockout affects the city’s economy.  The Hurricanes are the only professional team in Raleigh, and I realize there are a lot of fans.  The economy gets a boost from October until April or May, thanks to the people who pay to watch the team at the PNC Arena.  Regardless of your hockey fandom (or lack thereof), in a stagnant economy, we need hockey.

Now, you might think the people who are losing the most money in this situation are the players and owners.  This is true.  From last year’s data, players combined for $1.7 billion in salaries.  The total ticket revenue from all 30 teams in the 2010-11 season was about $1.2 billion.  Each team plays 82 games per season, which means an average hockey season would have 1,230 games.  So, if a single game is missed, the league loses an average of about $975,000.  On an average night where all 30 teams are supposed to be playing—meaning 15 games—this would be a loss of just over $14.6 million, just from selling tickets!

Lost ticket revenue is just one factor.  How about the arena where the game is held?  From 2011-12 data, the average ticket cost $57.10; however, nobody comes to a sporting event and pays for just a ticket.  The NHL, as well as other professional sports leagues, uses a piece of data called the Fan Cost Index, which is the cost of four average-price tickets, two small draft beers, four small soft drinks, four regular-sized hotdogs, parking, two programs, and two adult-sized caps.  Arenas take into account the average size of a family, plus the average amount of food and souvenirs they believe the fans will purchase.  The average Fan Cost Index for hockey turns out to be $326.45.  If the average cost of four tickets is $57.10 times 4—equaling $228.40—there is still about $100 per fan being spent on parking, on food, and on souvenirs per game.  Purchasing tickets is only about 2/3 of what an average fan will spend while attending a hockey game.  Therefore, if we add the Fan Cost Index to the ticket revenue, on an average night where 15 hockey games are supposed to be played, there will be about $22 million spent across the US and Canada.  About $7.3 million will go directly to the 15 arenas via parking, food, and souvenirs.  On a given night, a single hockey arena would make about $500,000 just from these categories.  Multiply this by 41 (the number of home games in a season), and the average hockey arena will make about $20 million totally independent from ticket sales.  Clearly, the lockout affects more than just the players.

There is plenty of measurable data, but how about the immeasurable?  Plenty of money is spent on a hockey game, even by people who don’t go to it.  Local restaurants and bars have wide-screen TVs, and they often use them for showing sporting events.  Most places have frequent patrons who will spend some nights in the company of friends and drinks.  Some people will often watch every game at the bar, and each game typically lasts about three hours long.  In the span of three hours, the fan will buy some snacks and a few drinks.  These public places rely on regular customers, and if the NHL continues its lockout, local bars and restaurants will not get this extra injection of cash.  Beat writers and news stations will have fewer stories to run.  Clothing stores will have less sports apparel purchased.  Multiple sections of the economy will be affected, not just the sports arena!

I will iterate that I am not a hockey fan.  (It isn’t played in halves or quarters, rather in three “periods.”  Weird!)  However, a professional hockey team is an important part of thirty city economies in the US and Canada, including my own.  Sports arenas can make a few million dollars each year just from vending during the games, and local eateries also stay afloat thanks to the televised events.  The teams, the arenas, and the restaurants all fund local events throughout the year, such as races, walkathons, parades, food drives, and so much more.  We need hockey, and we need the league to start acting like adults and settle the revenue dispute as soon as possible!  If this doesn’t happen, the sport will lose fans, and local economies will continue to struggle.

David Pilley

David Pilley

David Pilley is a May 2010 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with a B.A. in communication studies and a creative writing minor. He is a native of Raleigh, North Carolina.

He played clarinet for the Marching Tar Heels in 2005 and 2006. He also volunteered for STV, the student-run television station at UNC-Chapel Hill, in the spring of 2010. He shot video, wrote scripts, and acted for “Off the Cuff,” UNC’s longest running sketch comedy show. He has the rare distinction of having lived in a dorm all four years of his undergraduate college career. He was also on Franklin Street on the night of April 4, 2009. His future plans are to pursue a master’s degree in journalism and to one day work for the media as a sports journalist or broadcaster.

Being one of eight children, David realizes finance is an important topic to everyone, regardless of his/her knowledge of the subject. His interests are in personal finance, budgeting, and savings.

In his spare time, David enjoys watching sports and standup comedy, as well as doing crossword puzzles and writing in the first person. He also thoroughly enjoys trivia and, one day, hopes to participate on the game show Jeopardy!, where he will try to break Ken Jennings’ 74-game win streak.
David Pilley

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