NHL deputy commisioner Bill Daly and Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs look on somberly.
"The passionate fans are angry, the neutral fans turned off and bored, the mostly non-fans—the people hockey needs to attract if it hopes to grow—disgusted."
A new marketing survey from Level5, a Canadian brand-analysis pollster—published in the Toronto Globe & Mail Tuesday morning—has sent another bombshell hurtling towards the NHL's already-fragile public image.
The group questioned more than 1,000 Canada residents on their hockey emotions, as the ongoing lockout sputters towards its three-month anniversary.
Feedback was recorded and analyzed in a "map" of eight categories—"red (fun), yellow (interest), orange (inspirational), brown (knowledgeable), green (trustworthiness), grey (satisfaction), blue (nurturing) and purple (friendliness)".
The results? Not surprisingly, horrifying:
A disastrous map would be the one Level5 created following the BP PLC oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. It was the worst the company had seen—until it got around to the NHL this month.
They found a lot of males have slipped into “neutrality” about the game—are now bored with hockey talk and feel they no longer relate to the game. Football—both CFL and NFL—is on the rise among those fans, who continue to be interested in sports.
“We found damage at levels we have not seen,” [chief executive David] Kincaid says. “It’s quite alarming, really. If anyone thinks that the lockout can end and everyone will come back to Happy Valley, it ain’t going to happen.”
Group-by-group results, divided into "passionate", "neutral" and "non-passionate" fans, were predictably pessimistic. Diehard followers were described as feeling "cheated," casual to non-fans expressed "disgust".
Bettman, Fehr, et al are so wrapped up in own CBA cocoons. Don't realize, or care, NHL's craziness has made it a laughingstock to many.— Chip Alexander (@ice_chip) December 18, 2012
Meanwhile, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA leader have now found themselves on an Autobahn towards lawsuit chaos.
Has the lockout reduced your interest in the NHL?
Late last week, Fehr began a players vote to give him the right to file a disclaimer of interest, which would essentially disband the union. The vote will conclude this Thursday and requires two-third's approval to go into effect.
The league offices, in response, filed a court action hoping to prove that the NHLPA is not operating properly under the National Labor Relations Act and is, hence, not legally a union.
In other words, prepare for another month of wordy mumbo-jumbo and legal system scheming.
In other words, don't expect an end to the lockout anytime soon.
In other words, the National Hockey League is in big, big trouble.
Mark Jones has been a Bleacher Report featured columnist since 2009. He has written more than 440 articles and received over 775,000 reads.