December 2, 2004
The Ottawa Citizen
More than 60 per cent of National Capital residents do not miss the National Hockey League, according to a Decima Research poll commissioned by the Citizen.
The detailed survey of 503 households, conducted between Nov. 22-28, looked at views toward the current NHL lockout, which has already resulted in the elimination of the opening two months of the 2004-05 season.
NHL owners are demanding a salary cap as the only solution to the lockout. The players association has suggested several alternatives, including a luxury tax on the league's highest spending teams. The sides have not held formal talks since the beginning of the lockout on Sept. 15.
While 61 per cent of those surveyed said they did not miss the NHL, 38 per cent said they did. One per cent did not know.
Andrew Tremayne, a management side labour and employment lawyer at Ottawa's Eamond-Harden firm, said yesterday he finds several of the numbers striking.
Mr. Tremayne said he's surprised at the general tone of apathy toward the lockout.
"The lockout isn't something people can say they've been inconvenienced by," said Mr. Tremayne. "Generally, you find that if people are put out by a work stoppage, it puts pressure on a company to get back to the bargaining table.
"Some people miss it. I miss it. But it's not like a strike where traffic is being backed up for hours on end. In terms of the general public, (the lockout) only has a direct impact on a certain number of people, like sports bars and restaurants."
The survey also showed the game is being missed most by citizens in the 18 to 34 age group (48 per cent said they missed it), those with a household income below $35,000 (50 per cent) and by men (47 per cent).
People living in Ottawa's west end, closer to the Corel Centre, were also more likely to miss the game (46 per cent), with the number dropping to 33 per cent in the east end. Ottawa residents were also more likely to miss the NHL than Gatineau residents (40 per cent compared with 31 per cent).
The study is considered accurate to within 4.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
The Ottawa Senators declined comment on the survey yesterday, saying the sample size isn't large enough.
The poll also found more than half the population was either undecided or had no opinion on whether they supported the players or owners in the dispute. Among those who were decided, 38 per cent took the side of owners and only nine per cent favoured the players.
The survey numbers are also consistent with a similar poll conducted by the National Hockey League fans' association, a group which represents more than 27,000 fans.
"Our studies have shown that nine out of 10 of our fans support some form of salary cap," said NHLFA president Jim Boone. "The number of people which sided with the players was only seven or nine per cent."
Mr. Boone also says fans are growing angrier and less interested as the lockout drags on, which is also in keeping with the Citizen poll.
"I'm really surprised that so many people are turning their back on NHL hockey. (Owners and players) are essentially fighting over our money. Two-thirds of the revenues come from the fans, from ticket revenues. The other third is from sponsors. But I really think they are going to be playing hockey this season. I can't see them doing so much damage to the game. To me, the players are going to have to give more than the owners."
Stephen Ross, a sports law professor at the University of Illinois who has written several articles on the impact of the NHL lockout, says the results of the Citizen poll are consistent with what has occurred during labour stoppages in other professional sports leagues.
The longer a lockout lasts, he says, the more difficult it will be for owners to sell the game when it does return.
"There's evidence in every other sport," said Mr. Ross. "Eventually, everything comes back, but the question is how long it takes to come back. The more mad that fans become, the more they ask for. If fans are really mad, teams will have to lower ticket prices, they'll have to offer more and more to keep those fans."