Since the NHL lockout began, a number of stories have highlighted the plight of lesser paid NHL employees facing layoffs or salary reductions, as well as the effect upon those in the service and hospitality industries reliant upon the business generated by their local NHL team.
Yet there’s been almost nothing about the effect the lockout is having upon those who cover the NHL as freelance writers or bloggers.
I recently sent out a series of tweets asking for freelancers and bloggers to share their lockout stories with me. My thanks to those who took the time to respond.
“(My) ad revenue is down 80%, guide sales are down 50%. If I was a bachelor in a bungalow or townhouse or apartment, I’d be pretty screwed. But my wife makes enough to cover off the bills, Christmas for the kids to get us through. And I had enough guide sales early on (release date is August 1) to cover off site costs, pay the site’s managers (though they’ll thankfully be taking “rollbacks” starting January). The goalie guide helps a bit…but even those sales, which ironically were supposed to help soften the blow, won’t take off unless a season starts next month.
A second season starting late would probably finish me though, depending on how late. At least with 2012 I had half a year of regular income, and set aside a war chest (I planned on November 27 season start right from the get go). Well 2013 I won’t have that, so a late start next year could kill it.
As for the NHL’s fanbase – fantasy hockey is the biggest reason for NHL growth. I get into that here on THN and I believe it wholeheartedly. The rise of the Internet, and access to stats and pool managers has seen fantasy hockey grow tremendously, and if you take a look at the article you’ll be convinced. These are the people who will be responsible for any growth – and it won’t happen. The NHL, if the season is done, will be shocked at the slow pace of re-growth. Not if these guys start getting into baseball and/or football pools. You can only join so many fantasy leagues
I invested a lot in my site this year, with a pool manager now a part of it, and smartphone apps, a new shop, consolidating my sites, etc. But even so – if the NHL isn’t back until October, my income is back to 2009 days. Still okay, but I’d lose the steady growth that I worked hard to get.”
Matt Wagner, blogger for SB Nation, Blue Jackets blog “The Cannon”:
“It’s not my primary income, but during the regular swing of things I was writing at least two or three posts a day, usually including a couple of game recaps, and making an extra $150-200 a month that went towards things like student loans or taking my then fiancee (now wife) out for a nice dinner here and there.
With the lockout, I’m not getting any “main hub” assignments, and while I’ve been trying to write regularly on the CBJ or their players abroad, it’s nothing like my earlier levels. As a result, that paycheck has dropped to $50 a month or less while we wait for a season that may or may not happen.”
Darren Haynes, a (long-time) free-lancer for The Canadian Press.
“I’ve been a stringer for CP at the Saddledome since 1990 – trivia, my first ever NHL game as a freelancer for CP (and sometimes UPI in the early days) was Wes Walz’ first NHL game. He was called up from Lethbridge in an emergency recall by the Boston Bruins. I lasted longer than him! Anyway, since then, the world of freelance sportswriting – while not a lucrative one, has nonetheless become a useful and banked upon chunk of income that goes into the annual family budgeting process. After all, I have two kids, aged 9 and 14, and minor hockey, gymnastics, etc.Those activities aren’t cheap.
As nominal as the pay is, I would argue that this lockout, the financial impact on me from not going to the Dome those six or seven evenings a month since mid-September has been greater than the impact on the players or the owners from no hockey. It’s all about context.
Instead, to meet those financial shortcomings, I’ve spent a lot of time on the ice as a minor hockey referee in Calgary. Just last weekend, I spent 11 hours in my skates officiating at a big Bantam A girls tournament. The pay is not as good but refereeing is much better exercise than walking back and forth to the popcorn machine in the press box. A little healthier too!
So every time I get out the liquid paper and white out a Flames home game marked on my calendar, I go into the refereeing booking system and adjust my availability. Thankfully, many of those nights, I’ve been assigned games to officiate – might be Peewee, might be bantam, so I’m staying busy. Sometimes I also get to referee with my son so that’s always cool. But, like anyone filling their time with other things this winter, it’s just not the same type of busy as normal and despite how jaded I feel like I’m becoming at all the squabbling. I do miss it.”
An anonymous NHL media employee has found the lockout testing his finances and his love of the NHL.
“This lockout has tested my love for the NHL.I had bought into the “good-guy” image of the players. This has taught me that this is all business and at the end of the day, the people that are really struggling mean absolutely nothing to the league and the players.
This is usually a time of joy in our house. Since my life revolved around the NHL schedule,we had never really celebrated much…often my wife would be in a different city, visiting family. However, there was joy. We put up a tree and enjoyed the time that we could be together.
This year, we haven’t put up a tree. I can’t bear the idea of a tree with no gifts under it. My wife understood…although she was very sad that the year that we could finally be together at Christmas would be so empty. We decided as a family to save our money. It’s a decision between celebrating the holidays and making a house payment. Not much of a decision if you ask me.
This is what the lockout has done to me. It’s stolen my joy.
I will have lost $35,000 as of Dec. 30th. I know that it’s a fraction of what the players stand to lose, but at the end of the day…they are millionaires and I’m struggling to make ends meet. Seems fair.”
“My website, TheHockeyHouse.net, has had record views due to the fact we have always covered leagues around the world. With less stories/sites to compete, we have done very well, and with our coverage of every team at the Juniors and Spenglers, we expect it to increase our views even more. All in all, its been great.”
Dave Davis, “The Sabres Observer” on Kukla’s Korner:
“I made a decision months ago not to write about the nuts and bolts of the negotiations. I’m not giving the NHL any more attention or promotion than it deserves for this debacle. So, that pretty much puts me on hiatus. I have some fun things planned for my Sabres coverage on Kukla’s Korner when this is over.”
An anonymous freelance writer weighs in on the lockout’s impact upon their finances and work:
“The truth is, like everyone affected by the lockout, it is a painful time financially. I estimate that between September through December, I’ve lost at least six thousand dollars.
I don’t care where you live, in what era you live or lived, six thousand dollars is a lot of money. Am I in the same financial boat as arena security staffers or vendors? Am I in the same financial boat as team game ops staffers? Am I in the same financial boat as small businesses who are dependent on the NHL playing games?
The answer is No. I haven’t been laid off and luckily, I’ve been able to pick up some NBA and college basketball work along with reporting on the lockout.
But whereas normally I would be at rinks talking to coaches, players and executives for stories, the lockout has me and others standing on Manhattan sidewalks for pseudo-impromptu press conferences on player contracting rights, HRR, percentage points, franchise valuations. You might be surprised to learn it has been tough to sell those stories. Editors really aren’t interested in a profiles of Bob Batterman than, say, Nail Yakupov.”
Craig Newcombe, webmaster, nhlfreeagents.com.
“The effects of the lockout on www.nhlfreeagents.com has been crippling. Visits to the site have dropped by 85% and only spike slightly when there is a hint of good news. The site is a information based website that provides visitors with data on the upcoming free agents for all 30 NHL teams. Our twitter account provides followers with transaction updates, from trades, contract signings and assignments. Updates to the website have grind to a halt as there is no transactions currently in the NHL. We have chosen to provide AHL transaction news on our twitter account for fans that follow those teams. We hope that the NHL returns soon so we can help provide more info to the awesome and loyal fans of the NHL.”
Emma Harger, NHL freelancer.
“I have actually been able to keep up writing at a good clip during the lockout, especially because more than 10 of the players of my focus team (Bruins) have gone to different teams in Europe, but I’m tired of it. I’m tired of having to settle for reading numbers on foreign-language webpages when we should be able to watch them on television together playing in NHL arenas. At this point, I am tired generally, especially of being pushed around by the NHL as they continue to lob off more and more of the season like someone trimming branches off of a too-big tree while simultaneously acting like they really, really want to save the season. I’m looking for what I refer to as a ‘big girl’ job, one that could make me care much less about the daily ins and outs of this league. A lot of the people I work with are angry, apathetic, disappointed–you name the negative emotion, we’re having it in spades.”
Jean-Sebastien Landry, Hockey Wilderness blogger.
“I’m a 23 year old Canadian from New-Brunswick, so I’m pretty far away from my favorite team (Minnesota Wild). The guys of Hockey Wilderness offered to fly me over to Minnesota in October to watch a few Wild games because it was going to be my week off from the University and the Wild had three home games scheduled for that week. The stars had aligned and I was finally going to see my team play live for the first time. The lockout cancelled those plans and I’m left crossing my fingers for a March break flight, but it’s not very likely at this point.
So that’s a big part of how the lockout affected me, but other than that, I’m just pissed that I don’t get to write about hockey or watch it. Sure, there’s the QMJHL over here, but I find it hard to invest myself in that league for some reason. I’ve written 3 posts on HW since the beginning of the lockout. I used to write 3 a week at the very least. I really need this lockout to end, I’m simply bored. It’s also a pretty cruel joke to Minnesota fans who finally have something to be excited about with Parise, Suter and Granlund as new additions to their NHL lineup.”
“petshark”, San Jose Sharks blogger for Kukla’s Korner
“I’m a new blogger, green as grass. I have a lot to learn. The NHL lockout has facilitated learning in ways I didn’t expect. I’ve found places to watch Euro hockey online, and I don’t mind having to watch early in the morning. I haven’t done the 2am games yet but it isn’t unthinkable.
I’ve transferred my interest quite easily to the nearby ECLH team. What they lack in experience or skill, they make up for in enthusiasm and diligence. These are my favorite qualities in players anyway, anywhere. The team has been very patient with my dumb questions. Being comfortable asking the dumb questions really accelerates the development process.
I have no idea if an NHL team would have been so patient, but I certainly wouldn’t have been bold enough to find out. I dread having to figure out what to do when the lockout ends. It’s one thing to move on after being dumped, a whole different problem when the dumper turns up on your
Most of the time, I’m a timid person, highly averse to confrontation, anxious about stepping out of line. If there’s one thing this lockout has done, it’s show the league in their underwear. This lifted a whole lot of my anxiety, much faster than a regular season would have.
The splendid face of the spectacle has been smashed. I regret the damage to the league’s reputation, but I am unscathed. I am sorry we’re not watching the Sharks with their new coaching staff, sorry for the lost income so many have suffered. But I can’t claim to have been injured, far from it. Life goes on and so does hockey.”
Jeremy K. Gover, 303section.com
“It’s a double-edged sword for us here at section303.com. The ratio of content exclusively on social media vs. the website is 90-10. Almost any other time it’s 90-10 the opposite way. Reason being, it’s just easier right now. Codey Holland (my partner-in-crime at 303) and I each welcomed first born’s into our respective families this past summer so you can imagine that free time (and sleep) is extremely rare right now. So, in a sense, the lockout has given both Codey and I an excuse to dial back our web content.
That being said, the lockout has also bit us in the butt too. In an attempt to be fair with our financial supporters (i.e. we knew traffic would suffer while the lockout was going on), we suspended all advertising revenue. The businesses we get advertising from — on our podcast, in particular — know that we will pick up where we left off as soon as there’s NHL hockey again. And while we don’t do it for the money (obviously), we still have operating costs and promotion costs to maintain. The ad revenue pays for that. But no hockey equals no revenue.
In short, it’s given us the rare opportunity to spend time with our families during such a critical time in our sons’ lives (Cam Holland is seven months and Mogilny Gover is six months). But, at the same time, we miss the game. We miss the people we know through the game. We miss going into the studio and producing podcasts.”
Tom Urtz Jr, New York Rangers blogger, The Bleacher Report.
“As a New York Rangers writer, it is terribly frustrating that I can not write about a team that has been pegged as a Stanley Cup favorite by many different outlets.
I love to write, and I love hockey but the lockout has been challenging. The upcoming World Juniors Championship will offer a break and it will give writers some action to write about, but the lockout has pushed writers to their limits.
When you consider the fact that both the NHLPA and NHL are no longer meeting, writers can’t even offer opinions or facts about the lockout negotiation meetings.
Although the lockout has been annoying, I won’t complain because I am lucky enough to still have a job writing about hockey during the lockout. I feel for the arena workers and local business that have been impacted by this lockout, so whenever I feel frustrated about an assignment because there is no new NHL hockey, I have to step back and put some perspective on the situation.”
“Christopher”, hockey site administrator.
The two sites I admin for are slow. The casual fans have departed and only the diehards remain. Even a few of them have jumped ship. I don’t know the specific numbers as far as traffic, but the activity is at an all time low…