Sports fans are always going to be angry whenever there is a work stoppage due to labor difficulties.
Pronouncements of "never going back" and "hating" those responsible for the work stoppage are commonplace.
However, once the strike or lockout is over, fans come back. It may take time, but they eventually return.
Let's face it: How many hockey fans are going to give up the NHL so they can learn to knit or take a class at the community college on the history of chamber music?
If you say you are going to switch from being an NHL fan to a college basketball fan, you are lying. You know it, I know it and the NHL knows it.
But NHL fans' feelings go deeper than those of NBA fans who saw their sport locked out for a few months last year, or NFL fans who missed just a few weeks of training camp last year.
This is the NHL's third major lockout since the 1994-95 season, so fans have greater reason to mean what they say. They may not turn away from the sport forever, but they will for this season.
Here are the reasons:
This is not a catch-all designed to sum up the fans' feelings. This is a specific emotion for having the game fans love taken away. The NHL may be fourth on the popularity scale behind the NFL, Major League Baseball and the NBA, but hockey gets in your blood and never leaves (source: Sports Business Daily).
Fans develop an addiction to the game. It may or may not be a healthy addiction, but it's not for anyone else to remove the stimulus. Each fan has to decide for himself that he wants to remain a fan of the sport.
When the opportunity to root for your team is taken away by someone else, it leads to anger. When that happens three times in less than 20 years, that is a strong anger.
This goes along with anger, but it is a different emotion. Make no mistake about it, when you are a hockey fan, it is your sport.
You may not own a team or skate a shift, but you love the sport just as much as those who make their living from it. You resent it when you don't have a chance to show your emotions and vent your feelings.
Teach owners and players a lesson: The owners and players came to an understanding on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement after a 113-day lockout (source: TSN.ca). Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr finally came to an agreement after nearly half the season was lost.
That outcome is far better than losing the entire season, but it is definitely not acceptable. Fans will stay away from games and turn off their televisions this year because they want to get the message across to owners and players that this is not an acceptable way to do business.
Few sports leaders have ever attracted the enmity that Bettman has during his run as NHL commissioner. The perception is that Bettman is an ex-NBA guy who got stuck with hockey. He may be the commissioner of the sport, but to him, it's just a job.
His job is to make money for his constituents, the owners.
This perception may or may not be reflective of Bettman's true feelings. But it's how many see him.
By fans staying away from the game, it could hurt Bettman personally. That possibility may fire up a lot of fans to stay away from the game.
It's one thing for American hockey fans to be upset about the lockout, but it's even worse for Canadian hockey fans.
For one thing, hockey is their national sport. It is as important (or more important) to them as football or baseball is to American sports fans.
But somehow, a New York businessman runs their sport. He shut it down once again, and Canadian fans can't abide that Bettman has control of their sport. They will stay away to protest the heavy American influence on the game.
The Lockout Sport:
We've touched on it in several categories, but the NHL has become the lockout league and hockey is the lockout sport.
Even the most devoted hockey fan has to ask himself why he puts so much energy and passion into the game when the game gets shut down on a regular basis.
Fans who are in extreme pain have to ask themselves why they choose to be fans of a sport that would do this to them.
It's not logical.
When you've been hit with a gut punch not once, but three times in 19 years, you might change your opinion of the sport.