muddling on

The NHLFA -- National Hockey League Fan Association -- is celebrating their 10th anniversary this season. For those of you who do not know what the Fan Association is, it is (or was?) an attempt to give fans a direct say in National Hockey League matters.

Jim Boone, one of the founders of the NHLFA, sent out this email:

This note is being sent to the 29,633 Members of the NHL Fans' Association.

Welcome to the 2007-08 hockey season, hopefully the most exciting season of
NHL hockey ever.

This is a special season for the NHLFA, since it marks our 10th anniversary.
It seems like yesterday we recognized a lack of representation for NHL
hockey fans and decided to create a Web site and announce to the hockey
world we were accepting Members at www.nhlfa.com. Within a few short months
we had over 3000 fans join our team. Today we are inching close to 30,000
fans and are proud to say that we are the largest body of NHL fans in the
world.

Our colorful plans 10 years ago didn't materialize as colorfully as we had
hoped, but nonetheless we skate forward and continue to nurture the NHLFA.
We have forged trusted relationships with the NHL, the NHL Players
Association and many hockey media. We are respected in this industry and
have gained a reputation as a valuable source of NHL fan opinion. Our
credibility is our strength.

Can you please take a minute to answer a brief mini-poll? Please complete the poll by Sunday, October 14 at 11:59 p.m. ET. We will share the results of the poll with you next
week.

I'm surprised the NHLFA has not grown larger than 30,000 members. There are no dues, there are no meetings (that I am aware of). With the power of the Internet, people join groups with ease. I'm wondering why there hasn't been more of an electronic push to make the league relevant?

I mean, jeez, Rory Fitzpatrick got the Netroots (in this instance, grassroots-internet-based hockey fans) to almost land him on the All-Star ballot last season. Where's the Myspace group? Where's the Facebook community? Where's the email list? Where's the blog network of supporters? Or are hockey fans too apathetic to really take part in an organized coalition of fans? You saw these protest groups by the dozen during the lockout and yet how many of them can say that they are still around?

The NHLFA is not irrelevant in any case -- simply look at the fans that belittle Gary Bettman, Colin Campbell and other league changes and issues and you will find a passionate fanbase that wants to influence the game of hockey... But with such a rabid base come volatility ("Get rid fo the southern teams! Add more teams to Canada! Ban the salary cap! Ban the New York Rangers!") and a voice of moderation representing those fans is needed.

Now the question is, can the NHLFA take the next step forward and make itself more relevant to the fans and the National Hockey League? Or will it continue to muddle on and remain on the outside, looking in? I interviewed Jim Boone in 2004 at the beginning of the NHL lockout and he cited costs and time among other issues that hold back the NHLFA (a non profit entity). There are ways to get around those issues, of course, but reaching out to members and the Internet hockey community is the first step in finding that. Boone and Jim Spendlove (his partner) need to take that step.

At any rate, there is a mini survey being conducted at by the NHLFA with some current league issues being among the questions.

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