In a previous article I implied that the NHL was more concerned with winning a PR battle than reaching a fair agreement. Deadspin published an article exposing a secret meeting the NHL held with 100 fans. I heavily suggest reading the full article to see specifically what is going on, but here is the basic gist:
The NHL invited 100 "average" fans to a meeting for which the the league hired a top political strategist (Frank Luntz) to, through an array of tests, questionnaires, and mock press conferences, figure out what kinds of phrases or topics the fans responded positively and negatively to. As the article states, here is a sample of one of the questions asked to these fans.
"'Which of the following statements about the owners and their position in the labor dispute makes you feel most negative about the owners?" (Sample statements included "The owners designed the agreement that they are now forcing the players to change" and "NHL owners spent the summer signing star players to massive, career-long deals and now want to undo those contracts.")'
In another excercise, the hired political strategist pretended to be Gary Bettman and held a fake press conference. The fans were given equipment that allowed them to electronically rate how they rated what "Bettman" was saying as he spoke.
In other words, the NHL knows the fans hold the owners and Bettman largely accountable for yet another lockout and so they hired a guy who has made a career as a poltical spin doctor in order to figure out what euphemisms, buzz words, and canned phrases they should use in the future. The NHL plans on force feeding the fans a plate of ethos influenced propaganda because they believe we're stupid enough to fall for it. This is not the NHL asking the fans what their thoughts are on the lockout and how things could be done to reach an agreement. Rather, this is the NHL saying, "here is our stance and we're sticking to it no matter how unreasonable, stubborn, or unfair it is to you guys. So how can we spin reality to make you hate us less?"
If there is one thing we can take away from this (aside from the fact that Bettman and the owners are as ingenuine as we all believed they were) it's that the NHL DOES care what the fans think and say. If we didn't have a respectable amount of power in how negotiations go then the NHL wouldn't have even bothered wasting time, energy, and money to conduct the focus group. And thus, we have the power to put an ironic twist on this. Through the media, twitter, and general fan interractions the fans can react negatively to what the NHL is doing here and make things even worse for them. We're getting enough propaganda and BS from the presidential election, Gary. Keep the politics, spinning, and smear campaigns away from hockey, please.
Either Frank Luntz is completely oblivious or he just doesn't care. Here is a tweet he sent out basically minutes after this news (which is NOT being received well, as expected) began to spread.
Hockey Fans! We're looking for fans in the New York City area for a NHL group. Take this survey for a chance to qualify goo.gl/bYrs6— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) October 15, 2012
Follow Me On Twitter: @Herman_NYRBlog
I think the results of the focus group finally came in, and that's why the NHL made this proposal. Luntz was probably like, "Listen, everyone REALLY hates you. There's nothing i can do. You should probably just work this out immediately."
@John Scirica, the main problem is exactly what you said - Bettman is only concerned with fans' "PERCEPTION." And he's only focused on changing a "PERCEPTION." He has absolutely no intention of doing anything that would actually garner genuine RESPECT among the fans. As long as he can hire a known spinmaster to use creative words that might cause fans to think he is in the right, it is money well spent to him. I don't trust him as far as I could throw him and no amount of spinning will change THIS FAN'S MIND.
He is clueless, end of story. I also feel that many fans are not doing enough to show their frustration. The NHL offices are in Manhattan and if the fans really cared they should be there by the thousands in front of it behind those nypd metal fences screaming their heads off. Then maybe the league will give a shit.
I did not include his political affiliation anywhere in the article. It's irrelevant. If Gary Bettman needed to hire someone to conduct a focus group in order to discover that the "vast majority of fans are angry" at a lockout then he is even more incompetent than anyone could have possibly imagined.
Why is the pollster identified as a "Republican?" Would it be okay if he was a "Democrat?" The whole concept demonstrates that the owners and Bettman are concerned with the fans' perception. Since I would expect the vast majority of fans are angry, this may be a good sign. Or maybe I'm just in desperation mode.
The fact that the NHL felt as though they HAD to hire one of the top propaganda machines in the nation disgusts me.