Dear Mr. Ilitch,
There is no doubt that you are one of the best owners in all of professional sports. The Red Wings are the greatest franchise in North America, with four Stanley Cups since 1997 and reaching the playoffs in 21 consecutive seasons proving that you and the people in charge of the Red Wings know how to successfully run a team. For this, me and millions of people will be eternally grateful to you and your family. But this has been bothering me for a while now, so please let me get this off my chest.
The Lockout, the third since you have owned the Red Wings, is another dark cloud on a sport that was just starting to become relevant on the national stage again. Don’t get me wrong, I could not care less if the NHL stayed a niche sport, but I understand how business works and money talks. I also know that you love the team, the city, and every damn player who puts on the Winged Wheel every game and works his as off for you (except Samuelsson, because I gotta believe that nobody likes that guy). You’re not evil Jeremy Jacobs – you love this game.
I know everybody out there is blaming Gary Bettman for the lockout. He is the commissioner, so he does deserve some blame, don’t get me wrong. Who puts him in charge? You and the other 28 owners. Bettman and Bill Daly (deputy commissioner) are the only people from the league who are allowed to talk about the lockout publicly. No owners, no GM’s, etc. can have their voices publicly heard without getting fined (oops). Why? Why can’t the owners speak publicly? I don’t agree with the players calling Bettman an idiot, but I like that they have the freedom to speak their minds…even though most of them shouldn’t.
I guess this is what I’m getting at. Mr. Ilitch – OWN THIS LOCKOUT. You voted to lock the players out, according to reports. Had you voted “No” and the result was 28-1 in favor of a lockout, I would have no problem with you whatsoever. I do understand why you give in to Bettman and the rest of the league – you want realignment so you are playing the political game. Enough. You’ve been a good soldier long enough. All I ask is that you be honest with Wings fans. If you truly do support the lockout, then OWN IT. Publicly say you support it. I would be pissed at you, but I would still respect you. If you hate the lockout, SAY IT PUBLICLY. The fans would be willing to pay your fine and would be more willing to shell out big money for tickets upon the NHL’s eventual return. Trust me, we’re good like that.
You have owned the Red Wings since 1982. You have to be the most respected person of all the owners. When the NHL’s Board of Governors meets on Wednesday, December 5th, speak your mind. If you get blackballed because of this, so be it. You have all of (your clever marketing based) Hockeytown behind you if Bettman and the other owners decide to be high schoolers and talk about you behind your back. We love you and are willing to run into the fire if you speak up.
Mr. Ilitch, END THE LOCKOUT. You have the power. You know you want to play. You can do this. Let’s make this happen again: