The Lockout Files: Hello Donald, Hello Gary? You stole my hockey fantasy? By Chris Wassel
With the advent of the lockout, stats keepers in simulation leagues noticed something very quickly. Current information was harder to come by as far as just neatly listing for 2012-13 rosters. Part of that is because of the lockout and the rest of it is because of the lockout. People would like to think that Roberto Luongo is going somewhere at some point, right? After all, Shane Doan signed with the Phoenix Coyotes just before the weekend started. Then all these players were extended in the 48 hours leading up to the CBA door closing to the tune of over 200 million dollars. That would lead to even more hope fantasy hockey fans? Right? Wrong as usual!
The phrase “The Devil You Know” is so true in life but even more in sports. When you add in “the blame game”, it just gets worse. Fantasy hockey does not care about that. It cares about the game. What if there is no game? Right now, drafts are taking place or have occurred and there are no signs that these drafted players will accrue numbers for your team come the middle of October. This is not the fans’ fault as some have suggested. If you love your sport, you are going to pay the price to watch it. Yes it is true hockey depends on gate receipts to the tune of half of all revenue. The big money is made during the playoffs where one game equals as many as five or six regular season games.
The salaries, the revenue, and all that does not mean a thing when no games are being played. Again, it is not the fans to completely blame, it is the NHL and NHLPA who seem to love this labor unrest that really is the culprit. Gary Bettman believes the fans will come back and the fantasy hockey fans too. He may be right but the third time is going to put a dent into that theory. Going to that well affects the money coming in and that has a ripple effect.
The less money and the less traffic also means some fantasy players just will not come back, leaving leagues that they drafted in already in their wake. Can you blame them? That answer is undoubtedly no. Think about how big fantasy football and fantasy baseball mushroomed and then there is fantasy hockey. Yes hockey does not have the same revenue stream and it likely never will but the fans are the most passionate out of the four major sports. If there was a fantasy pie, it would look something like this.
Fantasy Football: 40%
Fantasy Baseball: 40%
Fantasy Hockey: 10%
Fantasy Basketball: 5%
Those are basic, rudimentary percentages but pretty close to accurate. The football and baseball pie are kind of evenly split considering baseball probably has more traditional attraction but football is growing faster. Baseball is also over six months and football is over a little less than four. It is also based on how fantasy sports is divided up on say Sirius/XM. As far as coverage, fantasy hockey barely registers a blip compared to the big two but revenues did not climb 57% between lockouts by accident. That should have translated into an increase in fantasy hockey players but the spike was nowhere near as steep. However, a few percent is still significant enough.
Radio shows, especially up in Canada, have realized the significance of fantasy hockey and its the most prevalent fantasy sport up there. That makes sense. Once one gets into the states, try to find fantasy hockey programming. It is quite a challenge! The last couple seasons saw a rise even in the states. Suddenly fantasy hockey experts were in demand on this side of the 49th parallel. Even satellite radio hopped on the fantasy hockey bandwagon with a few shows aimed at the growing base. With an amazing fantasy hockey season and positive numbers, all signs pointed toward even more coverage and then this.
All the way back in the Spring, there was talk that the two sides really were not going to get together. When Donald Fehr was hired, it almost seemed a foregone conclusion that a work stoppage of some sort was coming. Bettman Vs. Fehr sounded like a bad train wreck and little else for the NHL. So far, it is right on schedule. With top players heading to Europe in droves like Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Rick Nash, etc., there is that realization that it feels like 2004-2005 all over again for hockey and fantasy hockey fans alike.
What will be left for the fantasy hockey masses? It could be rather interesting but more and more it is looking like this lockout is going to last a little while and has the potential of wreaking a ton of havoc for all hockey fans. The All Star Game and the Winter Classic are very much in jeopardy and all we can do is hope then scramble as the NHL and NHLPA play a pleasant game of chicken. Stay strong fantasy hockey fans, there will be help and hope. Maybe someday fantasy hockey will get into that bigger piece of the pie, maybe.
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