Your partner cheated on you twice, and for whatever reason, you took him/her back both times. If he/she cheats on you for the third time, are you just going to let that person come right back like nothing happened?
Well, that’s what most NHL fans are doing after the third lockout since Gary Bettman became the commissioner in 1993.
While most fans are welcoming back the NHL in record numbers, a movement of fans have held strong.
The movement is Just Drop It, a coalition of 20,000+ hockey fans who decided to send a message to the NHL. I interviewed three of the fans:
- Steve Chase, a fan of “good hockey” living in Los Angeles, who started the movement with a group of hockey players in his city
- Cody Savisky from British Columbia, who calls himself a hockey fan first and a Vancouver Canucks fan second
- Rick Stolberg, a Calgary Flames fan from Golden, British Columbia
Just Drop It was born on December 4, 2012 when Chase and the other players were discussing the NHL lockout and wondering whether they could make a difference by pointing out publicly how “obnoxious” the lockout was.
Chase said they “decided that if we could yell loud enough, maybe the two sides would hear the angry fans and get back in the room to figure it out.”
The beginning of their loud cry was this video:
The video was “a warning shot, a line in the sand if you will,” Chase said. “You guys have until Dec. 21 to figure this out (just a date we randomly picked.) This is a fair warning if you cancel any games after that, we will not just sit there and take it. You cancel one, we’ll take one.”
When the lockout finally ended on Jan. 12, ten games had been lost since Dec. 21, so the pledge became a 10-game lockout by the fans. No tickets. No TV. No merchandise.
“We never wanted to boycott any games,” Chase said. “But a promise is a promise.”
It’s a promise that Chase, Savisky, and Stolberg have all held to.
Stolberg took the Just Drop It pledge “because just sitting back and taking it wasn’t working.”
“I wanted to join any and all groups that had a chance to enlighten the NHL and the NHLPA that it was in fact us the fans that are important and that we should have a say,” Stolberg said.
Though Stolberg hasn’t paid any attention to this season “except for watching the odd highlight that comes on TSN before [he] can change the channel,” he hasn’t entertained any thoughts of ending the lockout.
Neither has Savisky.
“What keeps me going is the disappointment with Bettman and the owners’ comments regarding the fans as ‘cattle’ that would return, because we are ‘the best fans in sports,'” Savisky said. “Hard to justify returning when insults are spewed out in the same sentence as a compliment.”
Instead, Savisky has satisfied his hockey fix by watching the Western Hockey League, one of three leagues that make up the Canadian Hockey League, the highest level of junior hockey in Canada.
Savisky said it’s “very exciting to see junior players compete, where they still have something to prove. Lots of drafted and undrafted talent.”
Stolberg has also turned to junior hockey.
“[There’s] less cost and it’s nice watching players that are driven with a love of the game – not players that are driven by a love of money,” Stolberg said.
The Just Drop It boycott officially ends Feb. 13, when all NHL teams will have played 10 games. On that day, Chase said his boycott is over, but he won’t be running back.
“If a game is on, I’ll watch, but this season is a joke,” Chase said. “There should not be a cup winner this year.”
Stolberg isn’t content to end with ten games.
“I’m extending it until every game they missed is paid back,” Stolberg said. “I may only be one wallet to them, but they aren’t going to see the inside of it until I’m repaid.”
While Chase said there will be no way to ever truly measure the financial impact of Just Drop It, he believes the movement has already been successful.
“We got a tremendous amount of press,” Chase said. “We did 12 live television interviews, over 20 live radio interviews; every major newspaper in North America did a story on us.
“Our goal was to stand up and be heard. We were. The league for the first time ever apologized and gave away free stuff… These are all victories for us. The league heard how angry the fans were. Were we a part of that? Absolutely. We became the single loudest voice of the angry fans.”
While countless hockey fans were angry but still returned to the league, Chase said the difference between them and the Just Drop Out pledgers is courage.
“Just like in normal life, not everybody has the courage or will to stand up for themselves,” Chase said. “We see it every day. If you took a room of 50 people and told them if they waited 20 minutes you’d give them a free hot dog, and then 20 minutes later you told them you lied to them, three or four people would stand up and take you to task. The other 40 or so would just mumble something and leave. Not everybody wants to make waves.”
Stolberg agrees with Chase’s assessment.
“People need to realize that it’s going to happen to them again and again if they don’t stand up for themselves,” Stolberg said.
Savisky thinks there is another way to prevent future lockouts.
“Fire Bettman and make it part of this CBA to never lockout again,” he said. “It’s a pointless tactic.”
In the meantime, the creators of Just Drop It are ready for phase two: Back To You.
Whether their latest effort catches on or not, one thing is clear:
In the words of Stolberg, “Hockey… is the same as it’s always been: ‘For the love of the game.’ It’s unfortunate that the NHL and NHLPA’s definition is ‘For the love of the money.'”