A Letter to the Colorado Avalanche
The following is a letter that a friend of mine sent to the Colorado Avalanche organization. Sorry Josh, I can't write them a letter because I'm still ticked off about Peter and saw him put on his new Flyers jersey yesterday. I think you nailed it though...big time.
I've been following hockey for 25 years and have been sharing season tickets to the Avalanche since their inception, and I find it frustrating and very disheartening to hear the Avalanche spin every bit of news they've had since the lockout ended in an attempt to get everyone to buy into what they're doing. Every team makes mistakes, and every team makes unpopular decisions, but the Avalanche seem to be operating with absolutely no regard for the fans, or how they are perceived, and I feel that is extremely short-sighted in a time when NHL teams should be bending over backwards to appease their fans and season ticket holders. It's understandable that in the new landscape of the NHL, it was going to be very difficult to re-sign Peter Forsberg and/or Adam Foote. However, I feel that very little was done to try to bring back both, or even one of the team's most popular and long-standing players. It seemed like Pierre Lacroix severely underestimated the amounts that both players would be willing to take to stay with the team, and the resulting offers were at best, insulting.
As out-of-touch Commissioner Bettman is with the pulse of the fans everywhere, and what the outrage would be at the reinstatement of Todd Bertuzzi - by the way, where is the outrage from the Avalanche Front Office? Could it be that they are trying to protect the fraternity of the NHL by saying absolutely nothing? It wouldn't hurt to let your fans know that you feel as they do, that Bertuzzi has not served enough time, or are you covering your own asses in case it happens to one of your players in the future? - that is precisely how out-of touch with your own fans the Avalanche have been in signing Brad May, who despite what he may think was an attempt at humor, is partly at fault for cultivating an atmosphere that led to the mugging of Steve Moore. As pointed out by Dave Krieger, there were any number of players of equal talent that the Avs could have signed. Choosing to sign May says one of two things; either the Avalanche front office is so stupid to think that their fans would not be passionate against the signing of May (can't be that, right?), or that they have absolutely no regard for Steve Moore, what he gave to the team, his struggles in his attempt to get back into hockey, or his lawsuit which though he has every right to pursue (and will be applauded throughout by the fans) even though it upsets the apple cart of said "fraternity" of the NHL. Even if behind closed doors, the Avalanche feels this way, the team should at the very least be "pretending" to the fans that they care about Steve Moore's plight. I would imagine if it was Rob Blake or someone of more value to the team than Moore, the Avalanche would certainly be more outraged. As far as I'm concerned, May will never be accepted unless he is the one that takes care of business against Bertuzzi on October 27th at the Pepsi Center. By the way, any lack of some sort of retaliatory measure against Bertuzzi (I'm not saying he should be injured but he should be checked hard, and should have to fight somebody) and the Avalanche will be perceived as week and spineless. As much as we love to hate Darren McCarty, he did what he felt he had to do to stand up for his team. Naturally I don't expect to hear anything negative from the players because they have to put a happy face on all of this, because Brad is now one of their teammates and they are required to close ranks.
Now comes a statement that throughout all this, the Avs have heard no negative response - there should be someone on the Avs payroll whose sole job is to listen to talk radio. Sticking your head in the sand and hoping the problem goes away is no way to treat your fans and season ticket holders. On top of that, now you announce that only 38 people have declined to renew their seats. I find that count a little premature considering many of us have yet to turn in our money and I've heard from a few people that they plan to NOT renew. On top of that, we in the upper concourse received a letter stating that we had an opportunity to upgrade into "previously unavailable" lower bowl seats.
Add to that the fact that if you go to the team web site, a convenient pop-up window tells you that "Season Tickets Are Available Now!" and it makes one believe that the public statements are a "dishonest" way to spin the negative things that are happening. On top of everything else, it was not encouraging to find out that our seats were one of the season ticket prices that were "below average" of the 10% On Average decrease season ticket holders enjoyed - yes, our tickets in the $37 range previously went down a mere 8.1%.
All of this together adds up to a very disappointed fan who keeps hearing spin after spin from a team that was supposed to be known as one of the classier organizations in all of sports. Now they need to act towards their season ticket holders and their fans in the same way they try to act to the media. For 10 years, the Avalanche has enjoyed the adoration from the fans as a result of the on-ice performance of the team, despite having done almost no marketing, and no reaching out to the fans. They were given this built-in fan base from the IHL Denver Grizzlies.
As long as they win, everyone is happy but behind the scenes, season ticket holders are constantly told after ticket hikes, and any other problems, "If you don't like it, someone else will be happy to have your seats." As much as I'd love for the Avs to always be one of the elite teams, there will someday be lean years, and the neglect of the fans that the team seems to be sowing now, they will one day reap. all you have to do is take a look at Coors Field to see that only winners are accepted here.
The fans of hockey have just endured a year away from the sport they love due to egos and greed run rampant. It is the responsibility of NHL teams to give something back to their loyal fans though a LOT of goodwill. You cannot underestimate the passion of these fans and then stab them in the back. Through our love of the sport, we are begrudgingly returning as ticket holders and fans, but the Avs need to show us something on AND off the ice this year if they want to keep us as ticket holders.
Do not ignore our voices.