NHL Lockout: Would Washington Capitals' Fanbase Recover?
If these talks break down and a deal is not reached by September 15, then the league will lock out the players, and games will begin to get canceled. The longer it takes to reach a new agreement, the more games will be canceled. Plus, there is always the possibility that the entire season could be lost.
This time around, however, there is less cause for the NHL to make significant rules changes to help revive interest in the league, as was the case after the 2004-05 season. Therefore, the boost in attendance that occurred during the 2005-06 season is less likely to occur this season if play does indeed resume, and attendance might lag as a result.
Now, most NHL fans don't care about the particulars of the labor negotiations. But they do care about the possibility of there being no hockey, even if only for a day.
So, would the Washington Capitals' fanbase recover from the second NHL lockout in less than a decade?
The answer is yes.
The Washington Capitals have existed for almost 40 years and have a fiercely loyal core group of fans, as is the case with most NHL teams. This group of Caps fans weathered the storm of the 2004-05 strike, which was bad enough to cancel an entire season.
In general, the fans should be able to move on after another labor dispute.
How would an NHL lockout affect the Washington Capitals' fan base?
Since the last strike, the Capitals have consistently fielded a team that performs well in the regular season and qualifies annually for the postseason. As a result, the fans have come out in droves to support them. During the 2011-12 NHL season, the Capitals finished 12 out of 30 teams in average attendance, and the Verizon Center was filled to 101.3% capacity for the entire season.
The team's fanbase has expanded partly due to the marketing of such exciting young stars as Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green. This marketing campaign has made the team very appealing to new fans, especially in the younger demographic. This newer group of fans will want to renew their interest with this team as soon as hockey resumes.
But the Capitals have an advantage that not all NHL teams have: Their minor league affiliate is in close proximity to their home city.
The Capitals affiliate in the American Hockey League (AHL) is the Hershey Bears, who have a loyal following of their own and play in a wonderful facility at the Giant Center in Hershey, PA. Capitals fans, especially those who have not seen a Hershey Bears game, will suddenly be more willing to travel up I-83 to catch a game if the NHL is not playing.
This newfound interest in the Hershey Bears will actually strengthen the Capitals fanbase. These fans will be gaining a deeper understanding of hockey at all levels—not just the highest one—and will be viewing the future of the Washington Capitals organization.
When those same minor league players do get called up to the big club, Caps fans will already be emotionally invested in their success and will therefore care even more about the Capitals. This would help to alleviate any bitterness fans may feel towards the team in the event of a lockout.
So, even though the Washington Capitals' fan base would recover from an NHL lockout, here's hoping that there's no NHL lockout to recover from in the first place.
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