“The message the NHL has sent is that ‘we are stupid,’” he says. The NHL cannot possibly have any other opinion, he says, because the league has previous proof – two earlier lockouts – that the league can treat its fans in a cavalier way and they will always come back.
“That is the calculation they make,” Richelieu says. “When they say ‘We have the best fans in the world’ the presumption is that the fans will come back. That is the best example of insult and marketing myopia I know.
“From a sports-marketing point of view I think the NHL is about to realize that the last word is what the fans have. It is consumer power. When the consumers decide to act, to send a message to the organization, then the organization has no other choice but to change things.”
That message, however, has yet to take full form. With each passing day that shows no signs of resolution the fans’ anger will build, Richelieu says.
He says the NHL and its players should be even more concerned about what he calls “the Superfan” than about the so-called “casual fans.” Many observers are saying the casual fans will drop off, especially in weak U.S. markets.
“When you are a Superfan,” Richelieu says, “you are so involved, because it is a love-hate relationship. You love it. You love it to the extreme. You will support it. You will buy, consume, spend. But when you are upset you hate it. What we do not know is how long this kind of ‘upset’ situation will last for the Superfans and how it will translate, because definitely the trust has been broken.