There's no sport that takes its fans for granted like the NHL.
Forget all the gratuitous remarks that come out of Gary Bettman's mouth about the NHL having the best fans in the world.
That's nothing but pablum, and Bettman and his cronies know it.
At the core of their decision to lock out the players is a belief that fans will return like lemmings whenever the strike ends. Bettman and the NHL owners know that hockey fans have an addiction that needs to be filled.
Those beliefs are all about arrogance. The league believes that it can lock players out and they will come back. The league cancels all the games through November—with more on the horizon—and that the fans will come back.
Of course, right now there is no movement and there are no talks even scheduled between the NHL and the NHLPA.
But at some point, this ludicrous lockout will come to an end. Both sides will apologize and let the fans know how happy they are to welcome them back.
What they will mean is that they are happy to welcome the fans' money back. Fans buy tickets, pay for parking spaces, buy food, souvenirs and beer.
They could care less about the individuals. They only care about the business. They know that if they are going to bring fans back, they must be solicitous.
NHL fans should send a message once the lockout ends. They should stay away from the games for the first week following the lockout.
If you are a season-ticket holder, you are not going to pass. But if you don't go to the games, you are not paying for food, drinks or parking. You will send a message.
This is a plan to keep in the back of your minds. It doesn't look like the lockout is going to be solved anytime soon, and rumors persist that the Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs will be canceled shortly (source: New York Post).
Bettman believes he can do anything he wants. The NHL "won" the last lockout and that has earned Bettman a lot of power in the NHL (source: New York Times).
The owners follow his lead and dance to his tune. He gets backing from the likes of Ed Snider of the Philadelphia Flyers and Jeremy Jacobs of the Boston Bruins. Bettman has slapped down owners like James Dolan of the New York Rangers when he's been challenged.
Right now, his power is unchallenged.
If the owners ultimately "lose" this lockout, Bettman's status may change. But he is currently the league's ultimate power broker.
So, if fans want that to change, they should remember to stay away when the lockout ends. It will send a financial message that the owners understand.