For hockey fans truly unhappy about the lockout, theres 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 cant 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 Im also a very loyal fan. It was just something that needed to be said. And Ive 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 wouldnt 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 cant touch any of that money or wed 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 doesnt plan to renew when next season comes around, whenever that might be.
Im highly unlikely to get them again, Hill said. Ive been a season-ticket holder since Greensboro. Hockeys cheated on me twice. I dont 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.
Its 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 worlds 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. Its just a matter of principle to me.
These hard-core fans have had enough. Theyve been toyed with, taken for granted and overlooked. Theyre 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, theyll try to send a message with their money, even if its unlikely anyone will listen.
DeCock: firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @LukeDeCock, 919-829-8947