No fan enjoys a lockout. The difference is in how they react.
While there may be a few nut jobs out there poking Gary Bettman voodoo dolls (and, really, who can blame them?), the vast majority have probably moved on to either a different level of hockey (high school, junior, college, et cetera) or may just have started watching other sports more religiously.
It is the indifferent fans that the league should be most concerned about. Everyone from Sports Illustrated’s Steve Rushin to Forbes’ Leigh Steinberg have wondered aloud how many people actually care that hockey is locked out.
It’s a bold move, writing that people don’t care about hockey on a large platform, but there is some merit to what they have to say. While there are legions of diehard hockey fans out there, many of the people that fill the arena are casual fans that either want to support having a team in their city by splitting season tickets with a couple buddies at work or catch a couple games in the cheap seats every year.
Like any sport, hockey needs its diehards, but it is the casual fan that allows it to be one of America’s Big Four (along with NFL, MLB and NBA) and become a fixture in many of the league’s 30 locales.
The following is a look at whether an entire fanbase, not just the diehards, will return following a lockout based on a scale of 1 to 5, with five being “returning immediately” and one being “they’ll take their time.”
The average attendance from the 2003-04 and 2005-06 seasons, which bookended the locked out 2004-05 season, is based off of ESPN’s figures and has influenced many of my decisions in this slideshow.