Inside the Flyers: Flyers fans remaining loyal despite lockout

Wearing NHL Players Association sweaters, Penguins players (from left) Pascal Dupuis, Sidney Crosby, Ben Lovejoy, and Tyler Kennedy take a break during an informal workout Thursday in Canonsburg, Pa.
Wearing NHL Players Association sweaters, Penguins players (from left) Pascal Dupuis, Sidney Crosby, Ben Lovejoy, and Tyler Kennedy take a break during an informal workout Thursday in Canonsburg, Pa. (KEITH SRAKOCIC / Associated Press)
Posted: October 15, 2012

The Flyers have sold 18,200 season tickets for 2012-13. Twelve people have canceled their tickets because of the lockout.

Twelve of 18,200.

That's 0.066 percent.

You can look at it two ways:

1. Flyers fans are extremely loyal.

2. Flyers fans are loyal to a fault.

Rick Trier, a 57-year-old car salesman from Southampton, said he falls into the first category. Trier's family has had season tickets since the franchise started in 1967. Including the playoffs, he said, he pays more than $13,000, total, for two very good seats. When the season isn't held up because greedy grown-ups can't figure out how to divide $3.3 billion in revenue, Trier said he can afford to go to only about 10 to 15 games, so he sells the majority of his tickets.

Still, he refuses to part with his season-ticket plan - and it has nothing to do with the 2 percent interest the Flyers are giving him for the money he has paid.

"I've been going to games since I'm 12. It's in my blood," he said.

Trier said it would be almost sacrilegious for him to walk away from the sport. He talked with excitement about being there for the long-ago Stanley Cup championships and even the Finals that ended in disappointment, most recently in 2010. He talks proudly about being there when St. Louis' Red Berenson scored six goals against the Flyers in a 1968 game, and when Chicago hammered the Flyers, 12-0, in a 1969 contest.

If you are a fan, he says, you are there for the good and the bad.

Even a lockout.

"I would never do that," he said when asked if he would turn in his tickets and say goodbye to hockey. "My oldest son is 20, and these seats will go to him eventually. My dad got seats in '67 and turned them over to me in '85."

Trier, who said he owned an interior-design business for 30 years before the economy forced him to close down, sides with the owners. Sort of.

He said they take all the risks and deserve to have a percentage advantage in sharing the revenue, but he also blamed them for giving outlandishly high contracts "in a bad economy" and then trying to renege on the deals.

There has been too much expansion during commissioner Gary Bettman's tenure, Trier said, and that has played a major role in the latest labor dispute. Trier makes sense when he says the NHL should get rid of the three or four teams that "aren't drawing and are dragging down the rest of the league."

Instead, the players' union, wanting to save franchises and jobs, is trying to increase revenue-sharing, with the haves (the Flyers among them) paying more to help support the have-nots.

Trier said the best part about hockey is the way it connects generations, and he worries that those ties will be severed if this pattern - work stoppages each of the last three times the collective-bargaining agreement has expired - continues.

"I love that I can tell my kids that I was there when Ron Hextall scored the first [goalie] goal, that I was there when Bob Kelly dragged Steve Durbano across the ice. I try to find video of those games and show my kids," he said.

He is hooked on the sport - though he would like to see the regular season reduced from 82 to 50 games - and, unknowingly, has become an ambassador of the game.

Perhaps if more season-ticket holders canceled their tickets, the NHL wouldn't be so quick to have a work stoppage whenever the CBA expired. Perhaps that would send a message that enough is enough.

From here, the NHL takes its fans for granted.

"Maybe," said Greg Croce, a 64-year-old Woodstown, N.J., resident who also has had season tickets since 1967 - and still shares them with his ex-wife. "I'm disgusted with these lockouts."

But Croce, a computer network engineer, conceded he won't cancel his tickets. Like Trier, he thinks the regular season is too long - and would welcome a shortened season that starts about Dec. 1.

If the NHL and players' union come to an agreement and resume the season a little after Thanksgiving (and save the Winter Classic), a lot of fans would be satisfied. They would get to see a 50-game season and would save money from the canceled games, including the exhibition contests that season-ticket holders are forced to purchase.

"Maybe I should give the tickets up, but it's a hassle because I'd have to distribute the money back to the people I share them with - and then have to collect the money again if the season starts up and we go back," Croce said.

Trier said he gave his youngest son, Austin, a synopsis of the labor situation and why he cannot go to Flyers games this October - and perhaps beyond.

"He said to me, 'Why don't they just compromise?' " Trier said. "When you have a 10-year-old saying that, it shows that younger kids are smarter than the adults."

Amen.


Contact Sam Carchidi at scarchidi@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @BroadStBull.

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