Fans of the NHL must be gluttons for punishment. I include myself in the above statement because no matter how poorly the league is run or how little the league seems to care about its fans, I will still watch when the puck gets dropped again.
I know that I'm not alone here. If you present the numbers in a certain light, an art commissioner Gary Bettman has mastered, the paying general public actually prefers lockouts. OK, prefers might be a stretch, but the attendance numbers, profit improvement and franchise appraisals pre- and post-lockout suggest that the fans just didn't mind.
Again, I don't believe that anybody likes a work stoppage, but hockey fans and sports fans have shown that they are the most loyal consumers in the world. Slapping a nice "Thank you fans" on the ice and raising ticket prices seemed to be enough to bring millions of loyalists back to the arenas.
The truth is that the most legitimate hockey fans will be back regardless of a lockout or strike because they love the sport. There is something about the sport that will draw us in no matter how poorly we are treated. Our consumption may be altered. We might not go to as many games. We may not buy as much merchandise. We may not purchase the NHL Center Ice package for three easy payments of $64.99.
We will know the schedule when the commissioner says "Game on!" though. Our television sets or computer monitors will be ready when the puck drops. We may put on the jersey of our favorite team too, even though we might feel a little dirty afterward. It would be too much to ask of the NHL to buy us a seafood dinner beforehand, but we'll accept its contrived appreciation anyway.
When the NHL opens for business again, we need not avert our eyes when we see our reflection. The shame you may feel as a fan will wear away about two-and-a-half minutes into the first period. The emotions and excitement will replace any guilt easily enough because the product is just that good. I'll stop short of calling us "puck junkies," but if the shoe fits.
I've put together 50 reasons that the fans, including myself, will be back for the NHL whenever it can get its act together. I'm sure we all have our own reasons to get back on the NHL roller coaster, and here are mine.