The NHL went through a lockout in 2004 and used it to improve the play in their league, but the same will not be said if another lockout occurs in 2012.
Fans will not accept it, and all momentum the sport has created will be destroyed in one fell swoop.
No league should really encourage something like this, but the NHL is especially at risk. It has, and probably always will, finish behind Major League Baseball, the NBA and the NFL in terms of popularity.
The only things keeping the NHL afloat right now are current stars and recent champions.
Players like Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos have given the NHL a new line of superstar talents. They're marketable, productive and carry themselves the way a star player should.
They are also young and give the NHL's fanbase something to be excited about.
Not only now, but for the future as well.
In the sporting world, that future can close quickly. Locking out for even one year will put a bitter taste in every fan's mouth, and those star players will be forgotten in the midst of the NFL playoffs, MLB playoffs and the start of the basketball season.
I also mentioned recent champions. We've seen teams from Pittsburgh, Boston, Chicago and Detroit hoist cups in recent years. Los Angeles isn't a "hockey town," but their Stanley Cup win this year brought hockey to one of the world's largest media markets.
There's no doubt that the NHL has found more relevance recently than it had since the days of Wayne Gretzky's Edmonton Oilers.
Sitting out one season will force fans to forget all of that progress, even if it's just out of resentment for Gary Bettman and the NHL front office.
The NHL will never pass football, baseball or basketball in terms of long-standing popularity, but they have notched their own stake among the world's sports fans.
If a lockout occurs, all of that will be erased the second an announcement is made.