While most NFL fans are likely rejoicing over Thursday's news that the league's owners have approved a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, Northeast Ohioans might take a more pessimistic view when the lockout ends.
Not only must the Browns install new offensive and defensive schemes under new coach Pat Shurmur before the Sept. 11 opener against Cincinnati, but the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the city of Canton took a marketing and economic hit with the cancellation of the Hall of Fame Game. Every year the game is technically a sellout, with a large number of tickets purchased locally.
Scheduled for Sunday night Aug. 7 between the Chicago Bears and the St. Louis Rams, the game is not only part of the enshrinement festivities, but a revenue producer. Hall officials expected a huge contingent from Chicago, especially since former Bears defensive end Richard Dent is one of the enshrinees. That contingent could be lower if Bears fans considering attending were waiting to learn the status of the game. To a lesser extent, that could also be the case with those considering driving from St. Louis, with former Rams running back Marshall Faulk also among the Class of 2011.
The hall also considers the game broadcast a huge advertisement for the shrine that draws fans throughout the year.
The hall issued an unattributed statement Thursday evening.
"While the Pro Football Hall of Fame is disappointed by the news that the NFL/Hall of Fame Game will not be played, we appreciate the effort that was made on our behalf by the league and players right up until the last minute," it said. "Although the game is an important part of the 10-day, 18-event Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement Festival, it is important to remember that the most important event is the Enshrinement Ceremony which will be held on Saturday night August 6 as scheduled.
"Obviously, the loss of this year’s game will have a significant adverse economic impact on the Hall of Fame and the Canton community. We believe, however, that the long-term stability this new agreement will provide will be beneficial not only to the league and the players, but to the fans and the Pro Football Hall of Fame."
Joe Horrigan, the hall's vice president of communications, was concerned about a possible cancellation in late May.
"This is what's on the front of mind of people. You want to make sure that doesn't impact how they look at the rest of the sporting world, us in particular," Horrigan said then. "As we approach our big weekend, we want that to be as shining as a star as that's been in the past."
But Horrigan said there will be plenty to do in Canton on Sunday.
"On Sunday, as is tradition already, we have the GameDay Roundtable, a very popular thing, 4,000 people show up,'' he said in May. "The new class of Hall of Famers talk. The class comes over for autograph sessions, there are things in the midway, fan interactive things, we'll probably step that up even further if there's no game. The only thing that will change if there's no game, from 8 to 11:30 there's nothing in the stadium."
The enshrinement ceremony is Aug. 6 at 7 p.m. The rest of the class includes linebackers Chris Hanburger and Les Richter, cornerback Deion Sanders, tight end Shannon Sharpe and contributor Ed Sabol of NFL Films.
"We share in all the positive things that happen in football,'' Horrigan said in May. "We have to understand that sometimes there's going to be bumps in the road that affect us. We know we didn't do anything wrong. But we know in the nature of the business, there wiil be these times when things are not the way you want them to be.''
All tickets already purchased will be refunded. Here is the refund policy, as released by the hall:
Pro Football Hall of Fame Game Ticket Refund Policy
Questions regarding this policy may be directed to the PFHOF ticket department at (330)-456-8207.