Fans plan re­sponse for end of lock­out

One group to boy­cott hockey one game for each game missed.

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS -

Sit­ting in a hockey locker room, Steve Chase be­came the lat­est diehard fan fed up with the NHL lock­out.

Liv­ing in Los An­ge­les, Chase be­lieved the league had squan­dered all the good­will built in the area af­ter the Kings won the Stan­ley Cup. So he took a pledge: “We’re not coming back.”

Not for good. Just not af­ter the lock­out is set­tled, not for a while.

Chase started the grass roots “Just Drop It” cam­paign that en­cour­ages fans to boy­cott one NHL game for ev­ery game can­celed af­ter Dec. 21st. No tick­ets, no TV, no mer­chan­dise — not a minute or a penny spent on the league, pun­ish­ment for what he be­lieved are con­tin­ued abuses of loy­alty on their fan base.

He made a video and started a Face­book page, urg­ing fans to click the “like” but­ton and join the cause. More than 11,000 an­gry fans have joined since the week­end.

The days of let­ter writ­ing and 30-sec­ond phone calls to sports ra­dio sta­tions have bal­looned to steady streams of hash­tags, Face­book posts and home­made videos from fans who just want to come in from the cold of this la­bor bat­tle and watch their slap­shots and saves. They are ex­as­per­ated over a work stop­page with no end in sight and lit­tle re­gard for the fans.

Pen­guins cap­tain Sid­ney Crosby un­der­stood why fans are up­set over the third lock­out in Com­mis­sioner Gary Bettman’s 20-year ten­ure.

“I don’t blame any­one for be­ing frus­trated with this process,” Crosby said.

But for all the an­gry tweets, texts, threats and or­ga­nized cam­paigns, fans will still pick up the re­mote and print out tick­ets as soon as the strife ends.

They al­ways do. In ev­ery sport. Re­mem­ber 1994? Af­ter the World Se­ries was wiped out, base­ball loy­al­ists vowed never to re­turn to the old ball game. Fu­eled by su­per-sized slug­gers and retro ball­parks, at­ten­dance topped 60 mil­lion in 1996 and soared to 79,503,175 in 2007.

The NHL, of course, can’t match those num­bers. But the story arc is still the same. The NHL drew 20,854,169 fans when the sport re­turned in 2005-06 — 497,970 more than the to­tal in 2003-04, the sea­son be­fore the lock­out.

The NHL saw an at­ten­dance uptick each of the next three sea­sons and to­taled a record 21,468,121 fans in 2011-12.All the blus­ter of a boy­cott is eas­ier tweeted than done. Fans can’t quit Sid the Kid, Ovi or The Doaner.

On open­ing night in Jan­uary 2013 or Oc­to­ber or when­ever, the teams will be back ready for the first face­off. So will the fans. At least some of them.

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