When the NHL lockout finally ends and the 2012-13 regular season is about to begin, the league and its teams must make an effort to thank the fans for their support.
After three lockouts in less than 20 years, the league will need to work hard to win back the many fans who will think about no longer supporting the league by refusing to buy tickets.
Let's look at five ways the NHL can apologize to its fans following the work stoppage and win back their support.
Following NHL commissioner Gary Bettman's failed promise to lower ticket prices coming out of the previous lockout, the NHL should make games more affordable for fans, students and families for the first few weeks of the regular season.
In the likely event that the owners win this lockout, they shouldn't think twice about making tickets less expensive at the beginning of the year.
There's no better way for the league to prevent attendance from declining after the lockout than by lowering ticket prices.
NHL GameCenter Live allows fans to watch lots of out-of-market games throughout the season on your computer, mobile phone, tablet and other devices. It even works on a Playstation 3 video game console.
For people who love hockey and want to follow many teams on a regular basis, this is a great service to purchase. It's also great for people who cannot watch their hometown team where they live.
The NHL should make this service free for the entire 2012-13 regular season, especially if it begins one or two months late.
The NHL Center Ice television package could be discounted too, but the GameCenter Live service needs to have its price significantly reduced, or made free of charge.
When the NHL opened its doors in October of 2005 for the first games since the 2004 Stanley Cup Playoffs, every team painted the message "Thank You Fans" next to the blue lines at both ends of the ice.
The NHL should not do this again because it won't look genuine.
Painting this message on the ice again would anger fans even more, most of whom are already frustrated with the current lockout.
It's obviously impossible to move a team or add one through expansion before the 2012-13 season begins, but next summer, the NHL should put another franchise in Canada.
Canada lost two teams in the 1990s when the Quebec Nordiques went to Colorado in 1995 and the Winnipeg Jets went to Phoenix in 1996.
Winnipeg finally has an NHL team again, so it's time for Quebec to get one too. Adam Proteau of The Hockey News passed along this bit of information last month.
An NHL agent predicts that whenever a new CBA is signed, Gary Bettman will try salvaging his rep by announcing 2 expansion teams for Canada.— Adam Proteau (@Proteautype) September 25, 2012
What would excite Canadian hockey fans more than Bettman putting two more NHL franchises in their country after another frustrating lockout?
Canada needs at least one more team in the next three years, and the NHL has more than enough cities to consider.
Everyone loves to win money and cool prizes, so all NHL teams should increase the number of intermission contests they have to give fans more opportunities to have the chance to walk on the ice and win stuff.
One awesome idea is to have a contest where three lucky fans get to take on their favorite team's goalie in a shootout after a game, and if anyone scores, they win a great prize. I bet a lot of Rangers fans would love to shoot on star goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.
A greater number of intermission contests would make the game experience more enjoyable for fans and increase the chances that they want keep buying tickets after the lockout.