Commentary

DeCock: Some hockey fans pull money from Canes

ldecock@newsobserver.comOctober 31, 2012 

  • Info For Fans The Hurricanes are paying 5 percent interest on money paid for 2012-13 season tickets and offering discounts for future ticket purchases – 10 percent off 2013-14 season tickets and 5 percent off 2014-15 season tickets. Season-ticket holders who want a refund instead should contact their sales representative. What They’re Saying “We share in the fans’ frustration that there isn’t an agreement in place and we are doing the best we can with the things that are within our control. We appreciate the people that have kept their money with the team and we understand that, for differing reasons, some people have asked for a refund." Hurricanes president and general manager Jim Rutherford “It’s difficult to hear, but at the same time, I can see their frustration. If that’s how they feel they need to emphasize their frustration, then you can understand that. You want to see everyone support your team and support the Hurricanes regardless, but we’re in a situation where it’s no fun for anybody and people have to make decisions with their money and their lives.” Hurricanes captain Eric Staal

For hockey fans truly unhappy about the lockout, there’s only one real way to hit both sides where it hurts: Demand their money back.

A few Carolina Hurricanes season-ticket holders have done just that, pulling their money from the team, including some of the oldest and most loyal.

Leigh Leclair had sat in the same seat for a decade. She understands the logic behind the first lockout, the one that wiped out the 2004-05 season. She can’t fathom why the game is shut down again, so she decided to make herself heard.

“I figured one way to do it was to pull my money,” Leclair said. “Not a whole lot of money, only one seat up in (section) 303, but I’m also a very loyal fan. It was just something that needed to be said. And I’ve taken a lot of flack for it.”

Josh Hauser just wanted to go back to his 12-game plan in the upper deck from the full season tickets he bought in the lower bowl over the summer, a difference of about $2,400.

When the team told him it wouldn’t pay interest on his money if he reduced his commitment, he took all of it back.

“A horrifying experience,” Hauser called it.

“We travel a lot and my wife is in grad school,” he said. “We planned to sell a lot of the tickets. At no time did we ever imagine them holding onto thousands of our dollars indefinitely. They were very defiant, very insistent that we can’t touch any of that money or we’d lose our seniority and benefits. We had no choice.”

Even those who are keeping their money with the team are making decisions about how they support it in the future.

Randy Hill decided not to ask for a refund, but doesn’t plan to renew when next season comes around, whenever that might be.

“I’m highly unlikely to get them again,” Hill said. “I’ve been a season-ticket holder since Greensboro. Hockey’s cheated on me twice. I don’t know I really need to be going back.”

The Hurricanes said one percent of season-ticket holders have asked for a refund. (The team does not disclose the size of its season-ticket base, but it is believed to have about 7,000 full season-ticket holders and about that many who purchase smaller packages.)

“We appreciate the people that have kept their money with the team and we understand that, for differing reasons, some people have asked for a refund,” Hurricanes president and general manager Jim Rutherford said.

Hurricanes captain Eric Staal, meanwhile, empathized with the fans who have canceled their tickets and said he hoped to have a chance to win them back.

“It’s difficult to hear, but at the same time, I can see their frustration,” he said.

In August, when NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman infamously said, “We recovered well last time because we have the world’s greatest fans,” he was speaking from experience. The fans came back after the 2004-05 season was wiped out by labor strife, and most of them will again.

Not all of them, though. That much is becoming clear, from Dave Recht, an original Greensboro season-ticket holder, to Wayne Stephenson, a Raleigh native and self-described hockey convert. Both canceled their tickets and got a refund.

“Really what set me off was when I read that quote from Bettman, which I found to be rather condescending as a fan,” Stephenson said. “My dispute is over the lockout itself. I think the folks in a front office you deal with on a day-to-day basis are as fine as they could be. It’s just a matter of principle to me.”

These hard-core fans have had enough. They’ve been toyed with, taken for granted and overlooked. They’re no longer willing to see their dollars bankroll another lockout – even if their money is insignificant compared to the billions at stake, even if it breaks their hearts.

“It was worth it,” Leclair said, “to make a statement.”

All these fans ever wanted was a hockey season. Failing that, they’ll try to send a message with their money, even if it’s unlikely anyone will listen.

DeCock: ldecock@newsobserver.com, Twitter: @LukeDeCock, 919-829-8947

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