When that happens, which could be very soon under a new proposal by the NHL, teams like the Blackhawks will have to win over their alienated fanbases.
The task will be a challenge as disgruntled fans may see no use in a shortened season. As the NHL and NHLPA were declaring war on one another, fans sat idly by waiting for some hope that a deal would be made to save an 82-game regular season.
Now, as the NHL and NHLPA enter the new year, there is a likely chance that a deal will be made before Jan. 15. A deal before that date will ensure that each team can play 48 games before the playoffs.
If a deal is struck and hockey is back on the ice, will fans come out and support the teams that they love?
The Blackhawks have had their ups and downs when dealing with fan attendance at the United Center.
In the late '80s and throughout the '90s, Blackhawks home games were sold out on a consistent basis. Fans would fill the seats to catch a glimpse of their favorite hockey team face off against a hated foe.
But as the team struggled entering the new millennium, attendance started to dwindle. The Blackhawks reached record lows when they ranked near last in the NHL for home-game attendance between 2002 and 2007.
It didn't help that the NHL lockout of 2004-05 wiped out an entire season. Fan attendance around the league hit record lows the very next year. As crippling as that can be, Blackhawks fans eventually came back to the UC.
Years of being "cellar-dwellers" gave the Blackhawks some favorable draft picks which saw them bring in Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.
Attendance eventually rose for the 'Hawks; only a few years after the NHL lockout of 2004-05 they were ranked No. 1 in home-game attendance.
The fans did come back, even after a bitter, ego-filled lockout that saw the loss of an entire season.
It is likely that this will be the case again, and what's more, the players and owners understand this. They see the loss of half the season as collateral damage, a loss that is necessary for a better CBA for the years to come.
If fans choose not to watch or attend the games, certain measures will have to be taken. Owners would be forced to lower ticket prices and possibly discount some of their merchandise. Fans will bite; little by little those disgruntled fans will come back to watch the game they so love.
It's business, and the way the NHL and NHLPA go about it will always leave fans in the dark until they create a new CBA.
This is the way it will always be, and Blackhawks fans will come back in droves once their game is brought back to the ice where it belongs.
Follow James Maahs on Twitter for all the latest on the NHL lockout and the Chicago Blackhawks.
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