With the NHL lockout now entering its 10th week, and with no end realistically in sight, analysis of the actual damage being done to the game has to be contemplated on a much more personal level for many hockey fans around the league.
The day after Thanksgiving, the NHL announced the cancellation of games through December 14 (ESPN). With the two sides unable to reach any sort of consensus—or even any sort of middle ground at all—as to the make-whole issue, as well as other ancillary issues that matter to one side or the other, this most recent cancellation was not a surprise.
For those keeping track, more than a third of the regular season has now been lost. Included in that are the loss of the Winter Classic and now the All-Star game as well. The NHL is losing between $18 to $20 million per day (ESPN).
But the damage and animosity are going even deeper than that. Dave Bolland of the Blackhaws retweeted, apparently accidentally, a post calling for Gary Bettman's death (ESPN). The mistake, if it was a mistake, represents a true low point in this whole sad saga.
If you read my latest article, you already know that I am not optimistic, at all, that this most recent round of game cancellations will be the last. I know I am not alone here.
The fact that the two sides have agreed to mediation is a good step but I am still not that convinced anything positive will happen (ESPN).
People are mad.
People are frustrated.
And many people just don't care anymore.
This is where the real damage from the lockout will ultimately be felt. There are many fanbases around the NHL that will be profoundly impacted by the lockout and the length of the lockout. Many of these fanbases will see wholesale depletion of large numbers of their fans.
For some, the damage might very well be irreversible.
No, the Original Six franchises will be just fine. And, for that matter, pretty much any franchise north of the border will probably not notice a significant decline in attendance numbers.
But one thing, among many, for which Gary Bettman has been criticized has been his insistence to place NHL franchises in questionable United States markets. It was a gamble that saw the game expand to some rather unexpected places with mixed results.
It is a gamble that could blow up in Bettman's face as some of those markets have fanbases that, being lukewarm to the idea of hockey in the first place, are now just completely disillusioned with the sport after yet another work stoppage.
Many of these fanbases are likely done with the NHL and will not be spending their hard earned cash on tickets and merchandise to support a sport that has shown an increasing indifference to those very same fans.
For those who read this, please don't get this wrong. This article is not, in any way, an attempt to minimize the passion and loyalty many fans of the teams to be discussed in this article display season in and season out. Rather, it is an attempt to identify 10 NHL teams whose fans, for a variety of reasons, might not be so willing to come back, spend money and watch the NHL this time around.
We are all hockey fans. We are all passionate about the sport and teams we love. But some fanbases are not going to rebound so quickly this time around—if they rebound at all.
Which fanbases won't return if and when the NHL does?
Here are 10 fanbases that won't be back.