Hockey Fans and Owners: Rules, Expectations and Actions

Source: Yahoo! Sports

A few interesting stories in the news that really highlight the relationship between fans and team owners. One is about a Montreal business that was asked to take down a sign that had the local hockey teams logo. From CTV Montreal:

The banner showed a man wearing a Canadiens jersey and slicing shawarma with a sword. Underneath the cartoon-like caricature was a large “Go Habs Go” message.

Issa quickly received a letter from an NHL lawyer telling him he was violating league copyrights and to remove the banner. At first, he simply painted over the Canadiens logo on the shawarma slicer’s jersey, but another letter quickly followed in January telling Issa that “Go Habs Go” also represents a trademark.

The other is out of Vancouver, where a car dealership was asked to take down a sign that supported the local hockey teams playoff run. From The National Post:

Doug Lum, general manager of the Destination Auto Group, said he received the letter by both courier and email Thursday from the NHL’s legal department.

The letter refers to a large sign on the window of the company’s Kingsway Honda dealership.

The Teardrop Flags reads: “Go Canucks Go!” with the words “Honk if you’re a fan” underneath. There is also a small Canucks logo on the window.

It’s clear that fans and team owners have certain expectations of one another. Fans expect entertainment and information when the need it. Owners see fans as a source of revenue and an audience for their product. Fans must also abide by certain rules, such as the ones established by the Canucks and Canadiens. Rules are a given in any relationship, whether business, personal, online or offline.

Within a network of groups and individuals related to the game, relationships between entities rely on expectations. From there, these expectations can evolve and determine if and how the relationship will continue to exist. Expectations play a role in the fluidity of the network with rules and actions changing all the time. From these relationships come action by fans, as well as league managers and team owners.

What I find surprising is how harsh both the Canucks and Canadiens franchises reacted to signs clearly supportive of them. Additionally, both organizations were able to copyright a slogan that was created by fans (“Go Team Go”). Even in a digital age where anyone can remix cultural artifacts such as team logos and images, both franchises still view their fans as simple consumers rather than creative produsers (Bruns, 2005). I don’t think this will impact future fan behavior since the web is filled with fan generated content that does not have full permission from the teams.

Bruns, A. (2005, March 11). Some Exploratory Notes on Produsers and Produsage. Retrieved from (2011, May 16).

Restaurant owner fined $89,000 for showing some Habs spirit. (2011, May 16). CTV Montreal. Retrieved from

Wyshynski, G. (2011, May 17). Is NHL wrong for serving $89,000 fine to Montreal restaurant? Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved from (2011, May 18).

Ziemer, B. (2011, May 2). Car dealership’s Canucks Sign Draws NHL’s Ire. The National Post. Retrieved from (2011, May 18).

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