Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

NHL lockout drives some Lightning fans to seek refunds

When Jim Creson received his $1,400 refund for the two Lightning season tickets he canceled because of the NHL lockout, he gave himself a present: a new set of golf clubs.

"If I have to sacrifice hockey, at least I'm going to enjoy myself playing golf," Creson said. "I'm terrible, but I love the game."

The Citrus Park resident loves the Lightning, too, and after attending games for more than 10 years sprang for season tickets for him and 13-year-old grandson, Isaiah Wilson.

But Creson, 51, a software developer who had two 300-level seats, said the lockout soured him, and reclaiming his money was his small protest.

"The owners need to know the fans belong to this team, too," he said. "It's not just the players who are going to determine whether your team is successful."

Creson is not alone. About 100 Lightning season-ticket accounts have been canceled because of the lockout, team spokesman Bill Wickett said.

The actual number of tickets canceled could not immediately be determined, but suffice it to say, an organization with a season-ticket base of about 10,000 and a 20,000-seat stadium to fill can't afford defections.

For some, taking their money from the team with which they live and die is the only way to voice their disgust at the spectacle of the league and players arguing, and perhaps going to court, over how to split $3.3 billion in revenues.

And with the lockout in its 95th day and a second season in eight years close to being lost to labor strife, feelings are raw.

"It really wasn't a debate," Orlando's Linda Hamilton said about canceling two 100-section tickets with husband Stewart, who owns a construction firm.

"When they said they were locking the doors my first thought was, 'I'm done.' I can protest. I can yell and scream on social media, but nobody hears it. My money is my voice and my money can be spent elsewhere to do more productive things."

Responded Wickett in an email: "We're disappointed for all hockey fans but, in particular, the season ticket members that are our lifeblood. We know the passion and commitment they have for the Lightning and, like them, we look forward to the return of the game. We have worked hard to service our season ticket members on a one-on-one basis and take a long-term approach when it comes to maintaining a strong relationship with them."

•••

The Lightning gives fans three ways to manage their season tickets during the lockout.

Make no changes and you get 10 percent interest toward food, beverages and merchandise. You can get 5 percent interest paid in monthly installments following any missed games to be applied to the playoffs, if there are any, or the 2013-14 season.

Then there is what Hamilton called "financial divorce."

It was not an easy decision, she said, despite the arduous 90-minute drive each way she and Stewart face between Orlando and the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

But Hamilton has what Stewart calls a "hockey addiction."

To see the now-canceled Winter Classic between Detroit and Toronto at the University of Michigan, the couple — both 46 and with five kids — bought a 20-game Red Wings ticket package.

Total investment, including their Tampa Bay seats: $8,000, all refunded, Hamilton said. They now have season tickets to the ECHL Orlando Solar Bears.

"It's like a two-sided coin," she said. "I feel good because I'm standing up for something. I'm using my voice to be heard. At the same time you miss it. My love is the love of the sport first, so I can't abandon hockey, but I can abandon the NHL, financially, for now."

•••

That the NHL is even in this mess so soon after the 2004-05 lockout is what burns Shawn Berger, who canceled two 300-level seats for a $700 refund.

The IT specialist from Palm Harbor blames both sides for the lockout. He figures players can get by on less money since some are playing for less in Europe. "But (owners) can't completely railroad the players, either.

"So, I said if they're going to play this game and not get a deal done then I'm going to put my money where my mouth is. That's the only way they'll know we are truly dissatisfied."

Besides, said Berger, 40, "I have a 2-year-old daughter who would rather go to Disney World than a hockey game."

Family obligations, too, were central to Bill Buchalski when he, wife Laura and daughters Ashley, 19 and Kristina, 18, discussed canceling four 300-level seats.

But games are "family time," said Buchalski, 50, of Spring Hill, a supply chain manager. "They bond us and make us feel closer."

No way could he cancel, though he is disillusioned because he sees negotiations to end the lockout as simply "a battle of egos" between commissioner Gary Bettman and the players' union chief Donald Fehr.

"I don't think it's about money," Buchalski said, and added, "It hurts the fans. It hurts the people that work. I don't think that's something they've considered."

He said he believes fans will return to the game when the lockout ends, "but with a little bit of distance, a distance of, 'You do this again and I'm done.' "

Some aren't waiting.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Live blog: It comes down to this for Bolts-Caps

Live blog: It comes down to this for Bolts-Caps

Follow our live coverage of the Eastern Conference final between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals.We'll have updates, analysis, photos, video and more on and off the ice from Times reporters, editors, sports columnists and photo journa...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Win or lose, no one should be down on this Lightning season

Win or lose, no one should be down on this Lightning season

TAMPA — So here's a question that came up before Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final between the Lightning and Capitals. It's a fill-in-the-blank question.Here goes: If the Lightning does not win the Stanley Cup, this Lightning season will g...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Lightning coach Jon Cooper on Game 7s: ‘It’s like you’re writing history’

Lightning coach Jon Cooper on Game 7s: ‘It’s like you’re writing history’

TAMPA — Does it get any better than Game 7 in the NHL playoffs?Probably not.The Lightning and Capitals meet tonight at Amalie Arena in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final.RELATED: Sports Illustrated looks at some of the NHL's top Game 7sThis...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Stanley Cup final berth at stake tonight in Game 7

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Stanley Cup final berth at stake tonight in Game 7

Game 7. Need we say more? The Lightning faces the Capitals tonight with a berth in the Stanley Cup final on the line. Tom Jones joins Rick Stroud to discuss the biggest game to this point of Tampa Bay's season.Plus, the Rays fall to Boston and lose J...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Lightning-Capitals: Stat to watch in Game 7

Lightning-Capitals: Stat to watch in Game 7

We asked the Times' Lightning coverage team what's the statistic to watch in tonight's Game 7 of the Lightning-Capitals series (8 p.m., NBC Sports Network). Here's their answers. Share yours in the comments section below:Martin Fennelly, columnist:&#...
Published: 05/23/18
Lightning-Capitals: The most compelling Game 7 personality

Lightning-Capitals: The most compelling Game 7 personality

Who is the most compelling personality in Lightning-Capitals Game 7?We asked the Times' Lightning coverage team for their answer. Who's yours? Please share in the comments section and feel free to take issue with our answers.JOIN the Lightning Strike...
Published: 05/23/18
The key stat for Lightning-Capitals Game 7? Score first

The key stat for Lightning-Capitals Game 7? Score first

As the Lightning and Capitals prepare for their series finale Wednesday night at Amalie Arena in Tampa, here's a by-the-numbers look at each team's Game 7 history.5-2The Lightning's record in Game 7s. It has never lost at home (3-0).+5The Lightning's...
Published: 05/22/18
Lightning-Capitals: Tampa Bay’s Game 7 to-do list

Lightning-Capitals: Tampa Bay’s Game 7 to-do list

TAMPA — By now there are no more secrets. After six games over 11 days, the Lightning knows all the Capitals' habits , and the Caps know all the Lightning's.To Lightning coach Jon Cooper the outcome of tonight's Game 7 of the Eastern Conference...
Published: 05/22/18
Lightning journal: You gotta love Game 7s

Lightning journal: You gotta love Game 7s

TAMPA — Welcome to Game 7, the most fun a player can have if he's fortunate enough to play in one. At least, that is how Lightning D Anton Stralman sees tonight's Eastern Conference final finale."I take pleasure in playing a Game 7," Stralman s...
Published: 05/22/18
Lightning-Capitals: Tampa Bay’s Game 7 Mr. Essential

Lightning-Capitals: Tampa Bay’s Game 7 Mr. Essential

TAMPA — He's the Lightning's best player. He's its most important player.Well, other than goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. That's a given. Every team relies most heavily on its goalie.But if the Lightning is going win a nerve-racking, heart-stopping,...
Published: 05/22/18