NHL Lockout: Owners and Players Win While Fans Lose Again

Jim FlanneryAnalyst IJanuary 7, 2013

WINNIPEG, MB - NOVEMBER 29:  Mascot Mick E. Moose entertains fans during the Winnipeg Jets game against the Ottawa Senators at the MTS Centre on November 29, 2011 in Winnipeg, Canada. The Senators defeated the Jets 6-4.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Millions of hockey fans were thrilled this weekend by the news that the NHL lockout was officially at an end following a months long impasse between the owners and the players.

An official start date and a shortened regular-season schedule should be announced in the coming days.

At the end of the day, it means that owners and players alike can get back to the business of making billions of dollars in revenue, and fans can go back to the business of funding it all.

And let's be honest here: that's exactly how it is going to go.

Quite a few noisy people on social media are proclaiming their plans to boycott the upcoming NHL season in order to express their disgruntlement.

But there are also many more die-hard fans who will happily pony up their hard-earned dough to get back to watching the game that has spent the last several months ignoring them.

There are a few teams who have been struggling financially for a while now that are likely to see a downturn in attendance in the coming season.

In places like Phoenix, where getting fans in the stands has been difficult in the last few years, would-be fans have turned to the NBA's Suns or college sports for their entertainment fix and may never be back to support the Coyotes.

But in places where the hockey community is well established—like the Original Six franchises and the rest of the Canadian franchises—the fans will flock back as if nothing has happened.

In towns like Winnipeg—where the high of regaining their franchise last year has meant that their stadium is already sold out beyond 2013—even if some disgruntled season ticket holders decide to cancel, there's a line a mile long waiting to scoop those seats up.

When all is said and done, the NHL doesn't care whether this lockout was a hardship to their fans because they know that the dedicated fans will be right back the moment the doors reopen in the coming days.

They also know that—although there might be a slight downturn in the short term—the rest of the fans will be back eventually just like they came back in droves after Major League Baseball wiped out the 1994 World Series and just like NBA fans are back after last season's work stoppage. The revenue stream won't be affected in the long term and the short-term damage will be relatively minor when all is said and done.

Ultimately, if the fans truly wanted to express their dissatisfaction with a bunch of rich people fighting over their shares of billions of dollars, they'd do so by taking their business elsewhere. But you and I both know—and most importantly the owners and the players know—that isn't going to happen.

So they can continue to treat the fans like schmucks because, frankly, we behave like it.


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