On Friday Marian and Mike Ilitch posted an apology to fans on the Red Wings’ official website: redwings.nhl.com. Excuse me if I seem ungrateful, but color me unimpressed.
Post 2005 lockout the NHL’s big gesture to its loyal fan base was painting “Thank You Fans” on the ice in every arena. Having attended the first game at Joe Louis Arena after the ’05 work stoppage I can’t even recall what the Wings did for fans.
This time around we deserve more. With two extended lockouts in less than a decade NHL teams must show fans some genuine gratitude.
The Pittsburgh Penguins are on the right track. This week the team announced they would offer free food at their concession stands and half priced merchandise.
In Tampa Bay the Lightning are giving $200 dollar season tickets away to fans. The L.A Kings have shown their appreciation by donating $1 million dollars to various charities.
A significant act of generosity on the part of Wings ownership is particularly important in a city such as Detroit where fans have continued to support the Wings despite being some of the people hardest hit by the recession.
Dedicated supporters of the Red Wings franchise who return after two lockouts to spend their hard earned money on tickets, merchandise, memorabilia, and overpriced everything at The Joe deserve something more substantial than a “We’re Really Sorry Please Come Back” letter.
Presently, the Detroit Red Wings have not made any official announcements about how they plan on rewarding their fans loyalty. But, unlike some NHL clubs who lose millions of dollars every season, the Red Wings are in a financial position where they can afford to give back more generously to their fans.
In fact, according to Forbes (http://www.forbes.com/nhl-valuations/list/) the Red Wings are the 6th most profitable franchise in the NHL. In addition, the Wings have sold out 70 straight home games.
The unwavering support by the fans of Hockeytown warrants the same type of commitment by ownership in return. Charity donations, free tickets, discounted tickets, and reduced merchandise would probably go a long way in winning back fans hearts.
Nevertheless, I want to make one thing crystal clear Mike: simply offering free Little Caesars at The Joe won’t gain our forgiveness… although that’s not a bad start.