Penguins’ Orpik: Bringing back fans is league’s job
By Josh Yohe
Published: Monday, December 24, 2012, 3:06 p.m.
Updated: Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik hopes the 2012-13 season isn't canceled because of the NHL lockout, which hit Day 100 on Monday.
He also hopes the league has a plan to lure fans back into arenas.
“Obviously you think about that kind of stuff,” said Orpik, who is going through his second lockout. “But the league, that's their side of things. They're the ones who need to worry about marketing. Our job is to play our best. We are the product. There is no league without us.”
The NHL and its Players' Association haven't negotiated in three weeks and last met with federal mediators two weeks ago.
Orpik admitted he never saw this situation coming and that fans might hesitate to return to the NHL, unlike in 2005, when most teams were welcomed back with open arms.
The veteran defenseman thinks a lost season could be disastrous for the league and even believes that the lockout — even if it ends soon — has possibly caused severe damage.
“I'm interested to see if anyone's interested when (if) we come back in January,” Orpik said. “It has a whole different feel this time around. Back in 2004, everybody knew there was a 90 percent chance there wasn't going to be a season. It wasn't a big surprise. I know most people this time thought we'd miss some time, but nobody thought we might must a whole season. I thought, worst case scenario, we'd know what was going on by Christmas.”
Instead, no one seems to know what's going on.
The sides don't have plans to negotiate, and it's believed the league could cancel the season if a deal isn't in place by around Jan. 10.
When and if the NHL returns, Orpik said, the league's public relations staff had better be working in overdrive.
“They're in charge of that stuff, to market the game,” Orpik said. “The only way we can sell the game as players is to play as well as possible and to be accessible with the fans and media. But the rest is the league's job.”
Marketing the game this time around might not be so easy.
In 2005, the league altered the game by adding numerous rules to generate scoring. Also, rookie stars Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin entered the league with much fanfare and immediately produced, giving the league its most marketable presence since Penguins owner Mario Lemieux debuted in 1984.
However, there are no rookie mega-stars about to enter the game. Also, the NHL is coming off its lowest scoring season since the previous lockout, and no plans are in place to open scoring.
“There were selling points back then,” Orpik said.
Now, Orpik and the rest of the Penguins can only hope a return to the ice is enough to bring fans back.
“I'm not worried about Pittsburgh,” Orpik said. “This is a traditional market. But I worry about places like Florida and Phoenix. They had great playoff runs last year. You hope the fans come back. But it's not our job to worry about that.”
Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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Wait a minute. I love Brooks Orpik as a player. I love his heart, I love his dedication to the game, and I love his willingness to speak candidly. But I also cannot and will not believe that the players - any of them - didn't see a lengthy work stoppage coming. This is what Don Fehr does. It's his entire playbook: "say no, don't commit to accepting anything, and let the owners negotiate against themselves while you continually come up with new issues to disagree about." And if they players didn't know that when they hired him, they're collectively either (a) willfully stupid or (b) out of their minds. The reality, of course, is that it's far more likely that they hired Fehr precisely because this is his playbook. They feel that they got crushed in the last CBA, so they intentionally hired a guy who would out-Bettman Gary Bettman. I get it...although I also get how colossally short-sighted they're being...the issues they're arguing about affect astronomically few players, may actually work to their collective benefit, and certainly don't out-value a half year or a year of missed paychecks for every single player the PA represents. They want to do that...and that's fine...it's their right. But to try to peddle a line of "wow...we're utterly shocked - SHOCKED - at how things have gone..."- especially right on the heels of the players having voted 700 and something to 20 something to allow the PA to disclaim interest in representing them as a purely superficial and utterly transparent gamesmanship maneuver to gain leverage in the negotiation - is even more insulting than the goofiness that all concerned have committed. It's like a bad car, boys: you bought Don Fehr...now you own him. And he doesn't care in the least about you, your sport, your ability to make a living, or anything else that's important to you. So pay him, hope your savings holds out, and let the last on-ice memory that each and every one of the Pens has continue to be the self-humiliation of shaking hands with a slightly better than average Flyers team that absolutely incinerated you in the playoffs last spring. How's that taste, guys? Is it any better 8 months later? Because quite frankly, this work stoppage has been a heck of a strong reminder to me that there are a ton of ways to spend my disposable income that don't result in embarassment at the hands of Sideshow Bob Hartnell.
Submitted by: Michael on Tuesday, December 25, 2012
I love hockey but both sides are acting like spoiled brats. You guys better pull your heads out of your collective butts before you end up living strictly off of tv deals and low to no box office sales!