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Low secondary market prices for upcoming, not-yet-sold-out Penguins-Caps game; NHL resale prices up overall

Washington Capitals tickets on secondary market sites like StubHub and NHL Ticket Exchange have been selling at their lowest average prices since the 2010-11 season (10/8/13) and the team’s upcoming November 20 game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, while one of the higher priced Caps home games on the resale market, is no exception.

“We’re seeing an average ticket price of $120 for that game, which is the lowest for a Caps-Penguins game in D.C. since we began tracking data on the NHL resale market [in 2010],” wrote Connor Gregoire, Communications Analyst with ticket search engine SeatGeek, in an October 22 email. “The average resale price in the 400 level for that game is $71 per ticket.”

Average Resale Price for Pittsburgh at Washington since 2010
for tickets overall and 400 Level tickets (Source: SeatGeek)

Date Avg Price 400 Level Avg
2/6/2011 $166 $117
12/23/2010 $159 $112
1/11/2012 $146 $100
2/3/2013 $138 $95
12/1/2011 $138 $93
3/24/2010 $126 $81
2/7/2010 $121 $75
11/20/2013 $120 $71

The November 20 match-up against Pittsburgh is not yet sold out. Tickets remain available through TicketMaster, starting at $84 in the 400 Level of Verizon Center. The lowest priced tickets for sale to this game on the secondary market as of this posting are a pair for $63 each in section 431, Row G on the NHL Ticket Exchange.

Overall, average NHL resale prices are on the rise. Gregoire explained, “We’ve actually seen a 10 percent uptick in the average ticket price across the league through this point in the season as compared to the lockout-shortened year. The average resale price across the NHL is $89 per ticket so far this season compared to $81 through as many games last season. In the 2011-12 season, tickets sold for $87 each on average through this point in the year, so it appears that we’re seeing a recovery in demand for tickets in 2013-14 after the lockout.”

Washington has been promoting value-added ticket deals via email for some games in recent weeks, including Ticket-Food-Drink packages starting at $59 per ticket and another offering two upper level seats and a signed puck for $99. The November 20 game against Pittsburgh is not listed as part of either offer.

The team also continues to promote “Fan Packs” for some games, offering two tickets for $69. But that deal doesn’t make much sense for customers, considering seats to those games are available at far cheaper prices in the same sections of Verizon Center via the secondary ticket market, including NHL Ticket Exchange, which the Caps also promote via email (“Sorry Caps, but this is bad marketing,” 10/7/13).

The Caps did not respond to a request to comment for this story.

Sorry Caps, but this is bad marketing

Caps fan packs

On Friday I got the above email from the Caps, offering two 400 Level tickets for $69 to either the October 10 game against the Hurricanes or October 14 versus the Oilers. That’s $34.50 per ticket for seats that cost $51 at full price, which might seem like a pretty good deal at first glance.

But if you visit the TicketMaster website to buy those Fan Packs from the Caps and then click on the “Resale” tab instead, you’ll find that upper level seats to those games can currently be purchased for as low as $11 through the NHL Ticket Exchange, which the Caps have promoted by email, as recently as a week ago, as a place to “buy or sell worry-free.” Seats for October 10 and October 14 are plentiful there, with over 2,000 available to each game.

Hurricanes Ticket ExchangeOilers Ticket Exchange

When I can buy tickets in the same sections of the arena for close to 70% less through the “Verified by TicketMaster” NHL Ticket Exchange, a platform that is accessible from the Caps’ website, why would I take advantage of a $34.50 sales offer from the team? The Caps are promoting a Fan Pack that is nothing more than two seats together at a discounted price that can be had for far less money just a couple of NHL-approved clicks away.

If the Caps want people to buy their remaining 400 Level inventory for these two games, they’re going to need to do better than this. Dropping their prices down to the levels of the resale market wouldn’t make much sense, but they could add more value to the Fan Packs. For example, they could throw in food and drink vouchers or add something unique to this promotion that a fan can’t get anywhere else, giving people a reason to want the team’s offer more than the far cheaper options available through resellers.

Otherwise, the Caps will have to count on some fans buying these Fan Packs because they’re unaware of options like the NHL Ticket Exchange. And depending on your customers being uninformed doesn’t strike me as a great marketing practice.

Caps defenseman Karl Alzner buys some season ticket holders their coffee

A friend posted this on Facebook today and I thought it was cool:

Alzer buys Caps fans coffee

Three possible Mike Ribeiro replacements for the Caps from the Western Conference

I asked through Twitter for suggestions on topics you’d like to see written about.

Here’s the first one we got back:

There are many different ways you can go with this.

Let’s take a look at a scenario where the Caps either deal Mike Ribeiro by the April 3 NHL trade deadline or don’t re-sign him and then seek to replace him via an off-season trade, the same way the team acquired him last June from the Dallas Stars for prospect Cody Eakin and a 2012 2nd round draft pick.

Before diving into this, if anyone has #fancystat-like insight they wish to provide on the players named below, I welcome and would appreciate your input in the comments. There are also people who follow the three teams mentioned below far more closely than I do, who may be able to offer better perspective on this from the other organizations’ angles. Please feel free to jump in and add your thoughts as well—and that goes for everyone.

10 Shawn Horcoff, Edmonton Oilers, Center

Shawn Horcoff (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As good as he’s been, finding a replacement for Mike Ribeiro is far from impossible. You can comb NHL rosters and come up with a number of centers that might be a good fit for the Caps second line next year and that Washington could reasonably land in many cases, provided they are willing to pay the asking price.

Let’s rule out an in-conference trade for now and, partly for the sake of simplifying the list of options, focus on three teams currently toward the bottom of the Western Conference standings that might be looking to make some changes. These are also three teams that have not made the playoffs for several consecutive seasons, listed here along with the last time they qualified for post-season play: Calgary (2008-09), Colorado (2009-10) and Edmonton (2005-06).

One that might be better to avoid

We’ll begin with the option that seems to have the most people talking, but that might not make the most sense: Paul Stastny of the Colorado Avalanche.

With a pair of 22 year-old centers in Ryan O’Reilly and Matt Duchene on their roster, the Avalanche could move the 27 year-old Stastny to acquire other assets and free up cap space to fill other needs. Stastny’s numbers have declined the past two or three seasons, dropping below his current .86 points-per-game career average, but he’s still young and has shown the ability to put up big numbers; there have been three seasons when he’s posted just under or above a point per game.

One big issue with trading for Stastny is that he only has one season remaining on his contract, yet will likely cost a good bit to acquire given his age and abilities. If he can not be re-signed, Stastny would become a very expensive one-season rental.

Stastny currently earns $6.7 million, which is above what Ribeiro is likely to make going forward. However, if a team trades for Stastny and decides to commit to a long-term deal with him, it makes far more sense to give one to him at age 28 next year, than it does to sign Ribeiro to one at age 33.

As for the cost to acquire Stastny, Brian McNally of the Washington Examiner writes that the asking price is: “Likely Washington’s first-round pick in the loaded 2013 draft – possibly a top 10 selection, if not higher – and either an NHL roster player or one of the top prospects [Evgeny Kuznetsov, Filip Forsberg, Tom Wilson, Riley Barber and Philipp Grubauer].

If the Caps think they can work a deal like this in the off-season, the price they’d need to pay for a player like Stastny is even more reason to deal Ribeiro before the April 3 deadline, allowing Washington to stockpile a few more assets, including another first or second round pick in the deep 2013 draft if possible. But, with or without those assets, a move for Stastny really might not be the best one for the team to make.

The biggest concern of all with a trade for Stastny is that, with prospect Kuznetsov possibly coming to Washington as soon as a year from now, the Caps might not want to acquire a center as young at Stastny, who has such little time left on his deal and likely comes at great cost. The Caps may just need someone to fill the second line center roll for a season or two; it all depends on when Kuznetsov gets to D.C. and how quickly he adjusts to the NHL.

One that sounds like a pretty good fit, if he stays healthy

The Edmonton Oilers have a situation somewhat like the Avs, with two young centers in the picture that could make a more veteran player expendable. As 19 year-old Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and 23 year-old Sam Gagner will likely fill the center role on the top two lines going forward, 34 year-old center Shawn Horcoff is an expensive player the team may want to move.

Horcoff is much older than Stastny and has not put up nearly the same numbers, but he’d likely come at a smaller price in trade and has two more seasons left on his contract, with a cap hit of $5.5 million.

Horcoff has also put up some decent power play numbers in the past and is known for his leadership and two-way play. He’s less similar to Ribeiro than Stastny is when it comes to offensive numbers, but would be an interesting option for the Caps to consider, especially given the time he has left on his contract and the current stage he’s at in his career.

Horcoff could potentially fill the Caps second line center roll next season and the season after if necessary, with Kuznetsov taking over when ready. The Caps could still look to re-sign Horcoff for less money after that, keeping him as a third line center, an option on the power play and for his defensive play.

One factor that must be considered with Horcoff though is injuries, which have been an issue at times in his career and could occur more the older he gets.

One that’s cheaper, if his current team wants to give him up

The Calgary Flames don’t appear to have a great deal of NHL-level depth at center, but do possess a pivot that could be an interesting fit for the Caps next season, though he’s certainly no Stastny in the offensive production department. He also comes with a much lower salary.

29 year-old center Matt Stajan has two seasons left after this one on a deal that pays him $3.5 million and, while he has not been putting up the same offensive numbers as Ribeiro has, he’s shown signs that he’s capable of contributing more points than he currently is. Perhaps inserting Stajan into what could be a more high-powered offense in Washington would bring back some of the numbers he put up with Toronto a few seasons ago (.72 and .75 points-per-game in 2008-09 and 2009-10 respectively), giving the Caps a decent second-line center without a long-term commitment or large cap hit.

However, of the three potential Ribeiro replacements discussed here, Stajan may be the player most likely to be held onto by his current team, given salaries and depth at the position.

That’s a start on some replacement options via trade. There are other teams that can be examined and the free agency market can be considered as well. Please use the comments below to add your suggestions or find me on Twitter at @mikeholden.

More on trade or re-sign Ribeiro

Dave Nichols has a new post up on DistrictSportsPage.com explaining why the Caps should re-sign Mike Ribeiro and it’s a good read in the ongoing debate about what the team should do with their second line center.

A long-term deal for Ribeiro (which I look at as anything greater than three years in this case) still concerns me, with the number of years being a bigger issue than whether the cap hit is $5.5 or $6 million, for example. As I said in my post on selling high on Ribeiro, having him until he’s at least 37 as another highly paid player on the team is a risk I’m not sure I’d take, when there could be other options available:

Chances are Ribeiro won’t continue to put up the numbers he is right now for many more years. He’s posted 1.10 points per game this season through Tuesday’s loss in Pittsburgh, while averaging 0.77 per game since joining the NHL in 1999. Only once before has Ribeiro averaged over a point per game for an entire season, back in 2007-08 with the Dallas Stars, and he’s likely to face a decline in production over the coming years now that he’s reached his mid-thirties.

There is the outside chance that Ribeiro could prove his career averages wrong and continue to produce at his current level for a couple or few more years. But the Caps might also be able to get solid production from a less expensive veteran or a slightly younger player in that role, without having to take on the larger risk of a long-term deal, while also freeing up a million or so in cap space to spend on other needs.

NHL.com writer Corey Masisak summed up this sentiment well in a tweet yesterday:

ribeiro tweet

When I suggest the team sell high on Ribeiro at the deadline, it’s not to just walk blindly into next season with no idea of who the second line center will be. As I wrote in my post the other day, if the Caps choose to deal Ribeiro—an idea that gets less appealing with every game they win and the playoffs remaining in the picture—they should have a plan to replace him this summer with another qualified second line center from outside the organization.

On the other side of this, before I could fully embrace the idea of signing Ribeiro long-term at whatever it takes to keep him, I’d need for someone to convince me that it’s unlikely the Caps can find another quality second line center in the summer trade market like they did when they acquired Ribeiro.

Here’s another way to look at this whole situation though:

If Ribeiro’s production declines by the third or fourth year of a new deal with the Caps and his numbers no longer justify the cap hit at some point, it could be viewed as part of the price the team paid for the more productive seasons they might get from him. Granted this season is still one in which Ribeiro’s putting up more points per game than he ever has before, save for one year in Dallas, so he may never match this again…or maybe he will. But if Ribeiro does follow the path of many players at the ages he’ll soon hit, the Caps could just hope to get the most from him in the earlier years and then write off the latter ones as part of the cost of the biggest seasons that he has, which hopefully help to bring the team more playoff success.

Here’s a good analogy that someone used when discussing this with me on Twitter:

My next thought though is, do you keep that expensive car at the risk it loses some power a few years from now? Or do you trade it in by April 3 if there’s a lucrative offer on the table and then replace the car with a less expensive two-year lease this summer (i.e. a guy toward the end of a deal like Ribeiro was when the Caps acquired him) or a younger but established option that might have more big years left to help justify a long-term deal?

If the Caps keep winning though and are in the playoff hunt at the trade deadline, a huge piece of this all goes away. So the easy solution is for them to just win the Cup this season, with Ribeiro earning the Conn Smyth. Simple, right? Then George McPhee can just figure the rest out this summer.

The case for trading Mike Ribeiro

Ribeiro Lays a Hard Check on Wideman

Mike Ribeiro (Dallas Stars) Lays a Hard Check on Dennis Wideman (Washington Capitals). Photo credit: clydeorama

The following is one half of a point/counterpoint pair of posts. Ryan Boushell, who leans more toward re-signing Ribeiro, has posted his view on his blog, Rocking the Red in Pittsburgh.

If the Washington Capitals can re-sign center Mike Ribeiro, preferably before the April 3 trade deadline, for two years at close to the $5 million he currently makes per season, they should do so with little hesitation. But, with the supply of first and second line centers in the 2013 free agent market already looking thin and Ribeiro putting up the best numbers of his career, the 33 year-old can likely do better in both dollars and years if he waits and tests the market this summer. This could be his last chance at a big, multi-year payday before signing some smaller contracts in his late thirties.

As well as Ribeiro has played this season, this type of ‘big payday’ contract is something the Caps should avoid in this case. Signing Ribeiro for 4+ years at $5 to $6 million per year, for example, could give a Washington team with large financial commitments to Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green even less room to maneuver in the future and would mean they’d have Ribeiro under contract until he’s at least 37.

Chances are Ribeiro won’t continue to put up the numbers he is right now for many more years. He’s posted 1.10 points per game this season through Tuesday’s loss in Pittsburgh, while averaging 0.77 per game since joining the NHL in 1999. Only once before has Ribeiro averaged over a point per game for an entire season, back in 2007-08 with the Dallas Stars, and he’s likely to face a decline in production over the coming years now that he’s reached his mid-thirties.

There is the outside chance that Ribeiro could prove his career averages wrong and continue to produce at his current level for a couple or few more years. But the Caps might also be able to get solid production from a less expensive veteran or a slightly younger player in that role, without having to take on the larger risk of a long-term deal, while also freeing up a million or so in cap space to spend on other needs.

Additionally, toward the end of any long-term deal given to Ribeiro, Caps prospect Filip Forsberg—who will likely join the team for 2014-15 season—could be pushing him for second line center minutes, depending on how quickly Forsberg adjusts to the NHL. By that point, Ribeiro could be tough to move at $5 to $6 million per year if his production has dipped.

So, if the Caps can sign Ribeiro to a reasonable two or perhaps a three-year deal prior to April 3, that’s one thing. Signing him ‘at all costs’ and for several years at around or well above what he makes now is another story.

If the Caps wait until the summer, they’re likely to overpay for Ribeiro, provided they’re able to keep him at all given the competition they’re likely to see from other buyers. And, unless he’s really enjoying Washington and sees a great future for himself with the organization that outweighs money, Ribeiro would be foolish not to play the free agency game before deciding to return to D.C. All of this creates an interesting situation for the Caps as April 3 approaches.

At no other time of year do NHL general managers give up more for players than they do at the annual trade deadline, as teams attempt to bolster their roster for the final stretch of the regular season and the playoffs. A solid second line center having a season like Ribeiro could bring a rather large return, such as a first or second round draft pick and a prospect or roster player, for example.

Another factor to consider is that with other free-agent-to-be centers Ryan Getzlaf now signed to an extension by the Ducks and the Panthers’ Stephen Weiss out for the remainder of the season with an injury, the market for Ribeiro is likely even better now than it was just a few weeks ago. If ever there were an opportunity for the Caps to sell high, this is it.

But, even though getting back big assets for a guy you might need to overpay going forward is attractive, the Caps should have a solid plan in mind to fill the hole that will be left at second line center for 2013-14 before they deal Ribeiro. There are several ways the team can do this.

Given the lack of top-tier, NHL-ready centers in the Caps system and a very young Forsberg still a year away from coming to the U.S., an immediate replacement for Ribeiro will almost certainly need to come from outside the Caps’ system.

One way to do this is through free agency but, as mentioned above, the pool for legitimate, second line centers looks thin this off-season and, just as some general managers tend to overpay in assets at the trade deadline, teams often have to overspend in dollars to land the most in-demand free agents each summer. Unless the Caps can find a veteran with a good year or two left in him, which is certainly a possibility, or come up big in the bargain bin, the best way for the Caps to replace Ribeiro might be the way they brought him to DC: via an off-season trade.

In one of the more ideal scenarios, the Caps could sell high on Ribeiro in the next two weeks to a team looking to make a run at the Cup this year and then trade for a center this summer when they might be able to give up a little less than teams normally do at the deadline. And through a trade, the Caps might find someone toward the end of a deal whose salary is less than what Riberio’s will be next season.

The Caps also might be able to find an offensive-minded center that comes without Ribeiro’s temper and penchant for complaining to the referees, which has resulted in three unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in 29 games this season. His latest allowed the New York Islanders to score the game winning goal back on March 9.

Now, don’t get me wrong here as I map out these options for a Caps team without Ribeiro. It would be great to see the Caps keep the best second line center they’ve had in years, provided he cuts back on smashing his stick and yelling at refs when he doesn’t agree with a call. But the conditions under which it make sense to keep him, on a fairly short-term deal at close to the salary he currently makes, appear to be somewhat unlikely. And if the packages being offered for Ribeiro at the trade deadline get so valuable due to a bidding war—for example, two or three solid assets via a combination of picks and players—it might make sense for the Caps to unload him even if re-signing him to a short-term deal at his current salary is possible.

While Ribeiro’s numbers would be great to have again next season, balance between present and future is critical to maintaining a competitive roster season after season. If through smart trades now, the Caps can better set up their team for success the season after next—when Forsberg and highly-touted prospect Evgeny Kuznetsov will likely join a team that might already have prospect Tom Wilson with a year of NHL experience under his belt—they need to seriously consider it.

Next season should in no way be written-off though. The Caps need to find an approach where they can compete and have a shot at a long playoff run next year, but without committing to too many big contracts that could handcuff the franchise three or so years from now. A large, long-term contract for a 33 year-old having a career year like Ribeiro sends up red flags in this department.

But all present vs. future strategy and other complexities aside, if re-signing Ribeiro to a responsible deal isn’t looking likely and the Caps playoff chances appear bleak as April 3 approaches, he must be dealt. There’s simply too much to be gained at the deadline to risk letting Ribeiro just walk this summer while getting nothing in return.

For the counterpoint to this, see Ryan Boushell’s post, “To Trade or Not to Trade…”

Hockey writer and analytics specialist Neil Greenberg on The Tony Kornheiser Show

Hockey writer Neil Greenberg was a guest today on The Tony Kornheiser Show. Kornheiser has referenced Greenberg’s writing recently on-air, appearing to become somewhat of a fan of the advanced hockey stats expert and Washington Post, ESPN contributor. Here are some highlights from today’s appearance, Greenberg’s first ever on the show:

Greenberg on drinking from the Stanley Cup after the Rangers won it in 1994:

“I was frequenting some of the bars in Nassau County…there were people taking pictures with the Cup outside of one of the bars, so we stood in line. As soon as I turned the corner to enter the bar, someone said, ‘Do you want to drink from the Stanley Cup’ and I said ‘Absolutely.'”

On Alex Ovechkin’s decline:

“He’s getting older. There’s two things that are happening. One is just your general age progression. People have a misconception as to when hockey players, especially goalscorers, peak. It’s typically between the ages of 22 and 24 and then you start to see a down-slope at age 27. Ovechkin has pretty much been in that exact pattern.”

“If you look at how Ovechkin scored his goal early on in his career when he entered the league it was by a volume of shots. It was more quantity than it was quality. He led the league with 425 shots when he came in. He was just a completely dynamic player that tossed rubber at the [net] from ever angle. And as those shots per game decreased, it took the goal scoring along with it. And what we’re seeing now is a player who’s putting up 300 shots on goals as opposed to 500 and 400 shots on goal. So, the goal scoring numbers are going to come down. Now, to his credit those shots on goal have up-ticked a little this year but a lot of goal scoring is also luck. You have a clank of the pipe here, it goes through the wickets there. He hasn’t been seeing a whole lot of puck luck as maybe he’s had in the past. He’s just going to be the 50 goal scorer that he was probably ever again.”

On if Ovechkin is an assist guy, a set-up guy like Gretzky or Lemiuex, with room to elevate his game:

“Ovechkin is a good passer. I think that’s actually one of the most underrated parts of his game. However, he’s not Gretzky, he’s not Lemieux. He’s not going to tally a whole bunch of points from… [Kornheiser jumps in and says, "He's not Crosby."] He’s certainly not Crosby. So, he’s not going to be getting points that way. The switch to right wing was an effort to get him away from that overpowering move he had down the left side where he would go down the left wall and try to cut in and score the goal that way, because that just wasn’t working anymore. The defenses have caught up to that. So, you’re right. His points are going to come from goals and, unless he starts to adapt his game a little bit more on the right wing, we’re going to see some 25 to 30 goal seasons.”

On Ovechkin making “a lot of money”

“That’s where people’s expectations, I think, are coming unglued because they see on paper this 65, 50 goal scorer that’s making $10 million and they think that’s going to happen in perpetuity. But, look, the Ovechkin contract was a bad contract. When they signed Ovechkin to that contract, for that period of time, it was a bad deal. And you can never expect a goal scorer to score 60, 50, 60 goals a year for ten years. It’s just not reality.”

On if the Caps know what Greenberg knows about Ovechkin

“I think so. Hockey analytics has definitely become bigger in the past couple years, however you still have, and I’m not speaking specifically about the Caps, but in the NHL in general, there are some teams that are embracing it. I know that Tampa Bay has a hockey analytics guy on staff, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Calgary, some other teams are embracing it. But, as far as the Capitals are concerned, they seem to trust the coaches more than the numbers. An I’m not saying that that’s a bad thing. However, I think that there’s room for both, especially when you’re looking at player evaluation.

[I'm going to interrupt this transcription, as I've just read on Twitter that Russian Machine has sent out a transcription of the entire interview. So, rather than duplicate work, check the Russian Machine Never Breaks transcript of Neil Greenberg on the Tony Kornheiser Show by Peter Hassett and I'll go write something else.]

 

QUESTION FOR YOU: How many Top 6 forwards do the Caps have?

It’s no secret that the 2012-13 Washington Capitals have holes to fill at wing on their top two lines. After going without a legitimate second line center for several years, the Caps’ June 2012 acquisition of Mike Ribeiro from the Dallas Stars appears to have solved that problem at least through the end of this season, when Ribeiro’s contract is set to expire. But after Ribeiro, Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin, the “Top 6″ talent on the Caps’ 2012-13 roster drops off substantially.

Here’s the question for you, the readers: How many Top 6 forwards do you feel the Caps have on the team right now? Tell us in the comments below or via Twitter (we’ll paste some of your tweets into this post) how many you think the Caps have and who those players are. Your answer does not have to be a whole number. For example, I might score the team at a 3.5 right now:

With new slogan and simple apologies, NHL still doesn’t seem to get it

Backyard hockey

Announcing their return from another lockout, the NHL’s new slogan states, “Hockey is back.” In reality, their brand of hockey is back. Other leagues—from college to juniors to the minors and even recreational and instructional ones—carried on, as did thousands of informal street and pond games. The NHL may be home to the best men’s hockey players in the world, however, the sport exists outside the boundaries of their business.

But the NHL’s new marketing copy goes along with the way the league and the players’ association often appeared to be operating during the latest lockout: as if they are the only thing that matters.

As has been written many times at this point, the two sides turned their back on fans, businesses and arena employees by not getting a deal done in time to for the start of the season in September and then dragging out their work stoppage for four months. The NHL and the NHLPA even released statements in their back-and-forth on the day of the Newtown, Connecticut shootings, while many were focused on that tragedy, hammering home the fact that the two parties seemed to be living in a clouded world of their own.

And with their new slogan, the NHL still doesn’t appear to get it. Hockey never left. A bunch of guys who waited too long to start seriously negotiating a deal deserted thousands who were invested in them. The game of hockey itself is more than just a business and goes on, with or without those men.

If the league and the players want to engage fans who are feeling uninspired to watch the NHL brand of hockey, many of them need to rethink the way they’re issuing their post-lockout statements.

Some players and owners have been thanking fans for their patience and some have apologized; I do not question the sincerity of these statements. If this had been the first time the league had shut down on its fans, perhaps words of sorry and thanks would be enough.

But after four work stoppages in the last two decades, more players and owners, as well as Commissioner Gary Bettman, need to not only thank people for their patience and apologize, but show true regret and that they understand they flat-out screwed up by allowing another lockout to occur.

Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller came out with some of the more honest talk I’ve seen from a player since the lockout ended, telling ESPN:

“The best thing to do is acknowledge that it was stupid,” Miller said Friday, before turning his attention to Sabres fans. “I appreciate their patience. I know it’s a hard situation. I still don’t even know the right message because it was just a stupid, useless waste of time.”

Miller, who played a role in negotiations, called himself “embarrassed” that it took more than six months of negotiations to reach an agreement.

Roughly worded but honest statements like Miller’s are a good place to start as more in the NHL draft their own messages. NHL hockey may be back, but some fans will be slow to return until more is done by the league and the players to show they truly grasp what they’ve been responsible for.

As my six-year-old daughter likes to say, “Sorry isn’t magic.” To win more people back, the NHL and NHLPA need to show that they understand just how big of a mistake they made and then, like any good team must do, stop making the same ones over and over and over.

Uninspired to watch: The NHL is back and I don’t care

The NHL is back and I don’t care.

Strike that. I care because of the innocent businesses and arena employees whose income was affected by the work stoppage. I’m excited for them that the lockout that began in September has finally ended. But other than that, there’s not a bone in my body that’s excited about NHL hockey at the moment.

My current disinterest in the league has nothing to do with protesting. This is not a situation where I’m ignoring a game I enjoy, just to stick it to the NHL and the NHLPA. I’m simply feeling uninspired to watch after sitting through yet another of the league’s work stoppages—the fourth in the last two decades and the third lockout of the Commissioner Gary Bettman era—with this latest version having lasted for well over 100 days.

In the early stages of the lockout, I felt disgust toward Bettman, the owners and the players’ association. I expected that, once NHL play started up again, my skipping games would be part of a personal boycott due to the greedy parties appearing to forget about the fans as they dragged out their back-and-forth.

But at some point in the last few weeks, my frustration gave way to apathy and, eventually, I found myself comfortably thinking I could live without NHL hockey. Now, I’m at a point where I need no convincing; I have no urge to turn on an NHL game as soon as they start-up.

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for the NHL brand of hockey, I’m very much feeling inspired to watch the sport itself. If I still lived in the DC area, I imagine going without NHL games would be tougher, as there aren’t high quality hockey options in that region other than the Washington Capitals. The AHL’s Hershey Bears are over two hours away and high level college hockey is even further. Perhaps I’d reluctantly go to Caps games, just to see some hockey, until my passion for the NHL eventually returned.

Harvard at Quinnipiac, January 5, 2013

Harvard at Quinnipiac, January 5, 2013

But a few weeks ago, my family and I moved to Connecticut and on Saturday night I attended my first Division I college hockey game in over 10 years, watching the Quinnipiac men’s team defeat Harvard to extend their unbeaten streak to 14. The hockey was exciting, the arena was great and at no point did I find myself feeling like I was watching a lower quality product than I’d see at an NHL game (though obviously there is a difference in the overall skill level). I can’t wait to get back to another college game and I imagine it will be weeks or days before I attend my next, not years like last time.

I’m not sure when I’ll feel the urge to invest time and money in the NHL again. It could be weeks or days or months. I doubt I’m gone for good. But the end of the lockout hardly has me excited to watch. The last of that desire left me weeks ago, drained while witnessing two sides bicker as if they didn’t care much about when NHL hockey started up again either, or for anyone but themselves. The agreement they are finalizing now would have been great news last summer.

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