After just eight years of labor peace, the National Hockey League and the NHL Players' Association are once again engaged in a heated labor battle that has the players locked out and the season in jeopardy.
With the situation heading down the same road it went in 2004, the possibility of losing the entire 2012-2013 season is growing by the day.
If the NHL cancels another year of hockey, it will be the ultimate slap in the face to the NHL fanbase.
Throughout this entire labor dispute, both sides have showed they learned from the precedents set in the previous work stoppage—especially the notion that most of the hardcore fans of the sport will come back to it no matter what.
Both sides have used the fans' loyalty as leverage to drag this labor battle out longer than it needs to be. That's indefensible.
The lack of concern for the fans proves the decision-makers aren’t worried about losing their loyalty or hard-earned cash. While there will undoubtedly be short-term financial losses, the hardcore base of NHL enthusiasts will flood back into the buildings across the league when the season starts.
Although it seems like neither side cares about the fans, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman told ESPN how much he wants a deal and how badly he feels:
Nobody wants to make a deal and play hockey more than I do. This is very hard, and I feel terrible about it.
It is this kind of two-faced public announcement that has plagued this labor dispute and ruined the taste in many hockey fans’ mouths. NHL fans just want hockey back, and the battle for PR supremacy is futile.
Fans don't care anymore who is at fault, there is just an overwhelming desire to bring the sport back at any cost.
The worst part of this whole labor battle is that the league officials and player representatives are right about the fans—they will come right back.
When you love something like hardcore hockey fans love the sport, you trust that the league will do what is best for the fans.
It has become abundantly clear that neither side cares enough about the fans to take a stand for them.
The owners will be ready to take the fans’ money when the dispute is settled, though.
Check back for more on the National Hockey League as it comes, and don’t miss Bleacher Report’s NHL page to get your fill of all things hockey.