How does the NHL encourage us to move on and love hockey again?

Face it, if you’re reading this post, you’re going to return to watching hockey. Maybe not right away or even this season, but you’re coming back. They’ve got you. But you might never be as passionate or excited as you once were. And you’re a big fan. How about the casual fans who jump on the bandwagon when their team is doing well? The league and its teams (and perhaps its players) need to come up with some sort of olive branch that they can offer, which won’t make up for the lockout but is a nice gesture that makes a difference in how we feel about them.

What would make a difference for you? The past couple of weeks I’ve seen heard a few ideas kicked around on sports radio and in various blogs and columns online. Some seem reasonable, others border on ludicrous, but each idea was championed by someone for whom that gesture would have made a difference.

The idea I’ve heard most often would have the NHL make the Center Ice package and/or GameCenter Live free for this season. I also read some information that makes it sound pretty unlikely that it will happen. But this idea made me think: who is it that I think owes me something (and do they really owe me anything)? Is it the league? The players? My hometown team? All of the above? Free Center Ice would be a league-wide thing, nothing to do with my local team (the Canucks), and to be frank I’m more of a Canucks fan than I am an NHL fan. Center Ice isn’t something I’ve ever considered purchasing – I have enough trouble finding time to watch 82 Canucks games + playoffs – so for me Center Ice would not be a meaningful gesture.

I’ve also heard the suggestion that the Canucks should give a free jersey to everyone who attends game #1. Sounds great, gets your brand out there, but this only affects the season-ticket holders and a few others who get a single-game ticket. I let my half-season tickets lapse after the last lockout, so this wouldn’t do anything for me.

Another interesting idea would have the Canucks spend some money at some local businesses frequented by their fans – restaurants near the arena, local sports retailers, etc. – and having those businesses randomly give some customers their purchases free “on the Canucks”. Cool idea, and I think it’s something they should consider. It would definitely get people talking, but it would mostly be a Vancouver thing. In my mind, the Canucks are BC’s team, not just the domain of Vancouverites. The fans in Prince George and Kamloops have just as much a beef with the lockout as I do.

I also heard a suggestion that the team should hold a free exhibition game with access to tickets for all. I like this idea, and I’d definitely try to get tickets for me and my son, but unfortunately I don’t think it’s going to happen. Timelines are very cramped right now, and it’s going to be tough to even get a training camp going, much less an exhibition game. I’m hearing that there will be no exhibition games this year for any team. It was also suggested that the players should do more public service and appearances. I think this is true, but unfortunately with a compressed season the players will have much less time than usual – good idea but it’ll be tough to make happen.

I think it’s somewhat likely that the Canucks or even the league will offer discounts on merchandise this season. I think this is about the least they could do. Right now I definitely have no plans to buy a jersey, or even a new hat, but a good deal might change my mind.

I’ve been racking my brain, but I haven’t come up with any great new ideas of my own. (By the way, I had to look up whether I was “racking” or “wracking” my brain – turns out my first instinct was wrong). But I’m curious, what would make a difference for you? What would make you feel better about watching your team this year?

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