With the NHL lockout reportedly at an end, the league has some serious catching up to do. After a nearly four-month work stoppage, the NHL is going to be hard pressed to get in anything resembling a full season, and even more importantly, they have to somehow draw in all the fans they have lost during the lengthy absence.
First, let's get to the news. The deal is not official—the paperwork needs to be completed—but that appears to be a mere formality now. According to Shawn Roarke of NHL.com, the new labor deal will be for 10 years with an opt-out clause after the eighth year.
So, with that long-awaited piece of news, we can now finally get onto the business of what a season will look like. For starters, we passed the point on the calendar where a typical 82-game season would possible months ago.
Now, it's all about squeezing in as many games as possible. Roarke points out that it looks like we are headed towards a 50- or 48-game schedule.
While this is going to cost the league a loss in revenue in the short term, it will wind up being good in the long term.
With that long of a lockout, growing apathy in the fanbase is inevitable. The NHL needs to reclaim these fans, and the best way to do that is by simply getting back to playing hockey.
Once the action starts, fans will be sucked back into the draw of the sport, and with a condensed schedule, every game is going to mean more, and they are going to come in a more rapid succession.
This is the perfect way to draw hockey-hungry fans back to the rink.
This isn't just speculation, either. The NHL, not that long ago, missed an entire season, and yet the fans still returned.
It will be an even quicker and smoother return this time. This work stoppage has a lot of similarities to the NBA's recent lockout. The season before this one, the NBA was forced to cut their 82-game schedule to 66 games.
The fans came back almost instantly, and by the time the Miami Heat hoisted the Larry O'Brien trophy at the end of the year, the lockout was almost a forgotten memory.
It will be a same story this year as the NHL season unfolds.