Will the NHL Lose The Young Generation in NY?

Will The NHL Lose The Younger Generation in NY?

Before starting, I would like to thank everyone for your comments on my first article here at Hiphopshortstop.com. For the people not familiar with my work, I was Editor-in-Chief for the DOI Newsletter/Website from 2003-2011. It is refreshing to embark and tackle a new project, and write about my true love – professional sports. I am going to continue to pump columns here as long as I’m welcome & motivated on a topic.

I am a huge hockey fan. I grew up a Rangers fan my whole life, went to many games, loved listening to JD & Rosen call the games on TV and the 1994 season was the best season ever in the NHL, in my biased opinion. My friends and I would chase down players for autographs outside MSG and the Nassau Coliseum. We all loved hockey so much, we even bought Islander season tickets for a few years during high school, just because going to MSG on a school night alone wasn’t going to fly. We loved the sport. We played street hockey, and later on, organized hockey. Sure we were terrible, but it was fun. And let’s not forget the epic match-ups we had on Sega Genesis with NHL ’95.

I was a huge puck head, but admittedly, turned my back on the league a bit after the 2004-2005 strike. The greed of the owners, coupled in with the worst commissioner in the history of professional sports, Gary Bettman, turned me off. It was also at this time the Rangers, my favorite team, let go of two long time veterans, and to me, the heart & soul of the team, Brian Leetch & Adam Graves.

Eventually, my fanaticism returned for the NHL, with the rise of emerging new superstar, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. I also credit my good friend, Joseph DiLeo, known to many as El Shoes, for getting me back into it, during our many NHL ’11 clashes on Xbox 360 and later on, NHL ’12 for PS3. (It always comes back to video games.) However, as quickly as I was fanatical and obsessed again, the rug was pulled from under me when Bettman announced another strike in 2012. I couldn’t take it anymore, and with a NY Giants going through another Superbowl run, I couldn’t see how I could care as much about the Rangers with the second work stoppage in 8 years.

However, the second an abbreviated season was announced, starting January of 2013, I couldn’t stay away. I was at nearly every home game that season and loved every minute of it. I was back. No matter how many times the NHL fucks their fans, I come back. If you’ve been to a professional hockey game or an NHL game, you know that there is NOTHING in professional sports like an NHL game. The NHL provides the best and most exciting experience for fans. The feel of the ice off your face, the banging around of the sticks, the swift sound of skates and the pure energy being displayed is nirvana for me. And playoff games? Forget it. Nothing compares.

Where the NFL is made for TV (including the show “COPS”) for various reasons, baseball games can be boring live and it takes 3 hours to play the last two minutes of an NBA game, hockey doesn’t lend itself as well to TV as the other sports. TV really makes the game feel small. Until you see it live, it’s hard to imagine how hard it is to even play the game at an elite level. At a live game, you can see the plays develop, watch the line changes, see penalties, see a breakaway emerge, etc. TV misses this sometimes. Basically my point is, and if you’re a hockey person to, the best way to watch hockey is to be there.

So where am I going with all this? I fear the younger generation will miss out on one of the best professional sports experiences as time flies by.

You can’t judge peoples love of sports based on me. I’m already too far gone. I’m Layne Staley in his dying days. I can’t be saved. I’m addicted, hooked and get the shakes if I miss a game. But for everyone else, the NHL is doing a great job in New York to make sure the next crop of potential fans won’t give a shit.

The NHL is the least popular sport in New York. Of the major four sports, it is the least popular sport in most of the country. In some places in the country, the NHL is not even thought about, as the local high school football game is more important. In New York, we have multiple professional teams in every sport. It’s easy for hockey to get lost in the shuffle, despite 3 professional teams being 25 miles away of each other. 

Image Credit: nymag.com

As stated, I’m a diehard Ranger fan. I went to 40+ games last season, including the playoffs. I travel to outside venues to see them play, and this year, I’m finally leaving the country to see them play in Montreal. Fortunately, I’m able to budget my money to have a hockey budget, and I have to do that because the tickets are too fucking expensive.

To the shock of no one, James Dolan is one of the worst owners in sports. He’s inept. He’s an asshole. He’s greedy. He’s incompetent. You can say the same thing about commissioner Bettman as well. Regular season tickets in the 200 section, which retailed for $53 last year, have jumped up to $68 in some sections. The success of the Rangers last season led to Dolan to jack up prices in every section. The seats were expensive already, due to the major renovation at MSG, and now only the extremely fortunate can afford to attend games.

I love the Rangers and obviously will let them beat my wallet up like I’m the son of Adrian Peterson. They already have me. But what about the next generation of fans? Allowance money won’t even let you afford popcorn at MSG. A birthday check from grandma might be able to afford an officially licensed NHL hat.

A disgusting trend has emerged at MSG. People in suits. Sure the games may be sold out, but I’ve attended the most quiet games in playoff history since the renovation. Last spring was great and times I’ll never forget, but if you pop in a DVD of the 1994 playoffs, it doesn’t even compare. Going to MSG is about doing business for a lot of people and the game is completely secondary. Since suits and their corporations can afford anything, MSG obliges them and raises the prices. The loser – the real fan.

How can a family of four attend a game at MSG? Tickets are now starting at $100+ for a regular season game in obstructed view seats. So even if a father wants to break the bank and take his family to the game, he can’t even sit close or sit center ice. You’re stuck looking at the floor of the bridges section. While a father sweats, hustles and breaks his ass to sit in shit seats, and tries to share the game with his family, some cocksucker in a stuffy suit is eating sushi and talking stocks during the entire game. It’s not fair, but it’s what it is.

My grandfather and father had Ranger season tickets for years. Kids happen and then you can’t go. Now as a guy with no kids, I’ve been on the Rangers waiting list for two years. However, there aren’t many tickets available for new subscribers. The only tickets available are tickets in the obstructed seats for a convenient $85 a game. The other tickets available are the sweet seats in the bridges, at $160 a pop. I’ve had to talk myself out of robbing a bank to afford these. I hate you James Dolan.

For the stereotypical family of four, Ranger games are not going to happen often. It is too fucking expensive and when you go, you can’t even sit well. As time goes on, MSG will be mostly suits and their young kids in yamakas eating cotton candy and not paying attention to the game. Rangers may make the Stanley Cup again, and there will be pockets of fans screaming their lungs out, while everyone else in the arena is asking them to keep it down so they can take a phone call from the Tokyo office. I fear I will even eventually be priced out. And it’s a shame – nothing beats professional hockey live.

But what about the other team in NY? The NY Islanders? The Islanders, despite an inferior product on ice, is the best ticket for a pure hockey fan in NY. Remember those season tickets I had as a kid? We got them for $7 a game. Kids can use their tooth fairy money to go to games.

I feel bad for lame-duck owner Charles Wang. He had many plans of grandeur to save the franchise and make it a destination vacation. Plans of a light tower, new hotel, shopping mall, coupled in with the Islanders was supposed to be the shot in the arm for Long Island hockey. However, red tape and politics squashed Wang at every corner. And it’s a damn shame, Wang really tried.

For me, I love going to Islander games. Obviously, Ranger vs Islander games is my reason for attendance. It’s a 10 minute ride for me and there aren’t many bad seats in the house. Sure the place is a dump, but I grew up with that dump and the proximity to my home makes it all more the better. Even this season, I found myself sitting right on the glass, center ice, for only $40. You can’t beat it. However, the end is near.

The Islanders will be moving to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn beginning next season. No longer will the games be a $20 cab ride (I like to drink and do not promote drinking & driving) or a simple ride for the regular folk. Now, everyone is looking at an expensive LIRR ticket. The ISLANDERS will be playing in the heart and soul of hipster nation. The price of a ticket for a recent preseason game at Barclays doubled the price of the other preseason games at the Coliseum. And let’s not forget, as a recent photo published by several Islander fans showed, there are many obstructed view seats.

The Islanders, always the little brother in the NY Hockey market are following big brother’s steps. A new renovated building. Suites. Bad sight lines. Sushi. It’s only a matter of time, before those poor red headed stepchildren of the NHL, the hardcore NY Islander fan, are priced out of what they love too.

For me, the best value for the NY hockey fan is a train ride away from Penn Station. The Rock, where the NJ Devils play, in lovely scenic downtown Newark, (How you put a hockey rink in a predominately black area, with the 3rd largest crime rate in the state is beyond me, but that’s a topic for another day), is a beautiful venue for hockey. Even better for me, the Rock has the most bathrooms and CLEAN bathrooms than any other NHL arena in the area. If you like your beer, you can take a piss at the whistle and be back before the puck drops for the next play. At MSG, taking a piss is a 20 minute excursion. (Veteran move: piss in your empty beer cup in the staircase. Extra points if you smoke a cigarette while this is going on.)

Unlike the cramped and stuffy MSG and the asbestos laden charm of the Nassau Coliseum, The Rock is always clean, spacious and there are no bad seats. I love attending Ranger/Devil games. It’s a bigger rivalry for the Rangers, as the Islanders have been irrelevant for years. The passion from the fans is huge. Ticket prices are cheap. If I wasn’t such a Rangers diehard from birth, I would consider Devil season tickets. The NJ Devils have a great venue, great people running the team, a great history and despite last year, always a playoff bound team. It is an affordable and a great night of entertainment for the family.

I love hockey, but does the common family man in NY have the time, energy, dedication and resources to go to NJ for hockey games? If he does, it is the best value in the area.

The younger generation may be priced out of hockey in NY. There is much more things to do for the younger generation than generations past, with video games, streaming TV services, cell phones, iPads, Tinder, etc. To get their interest is hard enough. The NHL does a horrible job advertising their product in NY. When is the last time you’ve heard an NHL commercial on WFAN? An ad in the NY Post? A 30 second spot during a Giants or Jets game?

Pricing these games aggressively in NY may lead to short-term profits and a sea of reserved suit and ties, but will there be suit and ties who care about hockey 20-30 years from now in MSG? Time will tell.

Before signing off, I wanted to make note of the most recent controversy in the NFL. At least this controversy isn’t rape, murder, slaughtering or child abuse. This is about an on-the-field incident.

This past Monday night, Husian Abdullah, of the KC Chiefs ran back an interception for a touchdown. A devout terrorist, I mean Muslim, Abdullah prayed after the play. He was fined for “celebrating”, but the NFL has reversed the fine and admitted they were wrong. WHY?

The NFL is saying that praying after TDs is ok. That is discriminatory against my people, the atheists. The NFL is saying you can pray to your selfish god, your messiah, your Allah or whatever. Clasping hands in prayer is A-OK, but spiking the ball is not. It’s ok to show worship to a religion that promotes murder to infidels, treats women like shit (well I guess that makes sense for the NFL) and promotes genocide, but spiking the ball – hell fucking no. I don’t even know why I watch the NFL anymore, the hypocrisy is ludicrous.

The NFL, after all their scandals, wants to promote equality. Either everyone can celebrate in a way of their choosing or no one can. However, I think we can all agree that anyone who celebrates a sack when your team is down 17 needs a kick to the balls.

Thanks for reading,
Sean McCaffrey
@NYCTHEMIC on the twitter

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