NFL Lockout Should Unlock Potential for NHL to Expand Its Fanbase

Matt HutterAnalyst IMarch 12, 2011

CHICAGO - SEPTEMBER 12: Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks carries the Stanley Cup to the field before the NFL opening season game between  the Chicago Bears and the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field on September 12, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois.  The Bears defeated the Lions 19-14. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

NFL Fans, we feel your pain.

The same frustration, disgust and anger currently sweeping through the NFL's fan base worked it's way through the NHL over six years ago.

It's a special kind of fury.

It's the fury that is produced when people who spend what little disposable cash they have to support a sport they love have that sport yanked away from them because a bunch of millionaires and billionaires can't find a way to work together.

The 2004-05 NHL Lockout devastated the game in such a way that it has still not fully recovered.

It's still not on ESPN, it's still an after thought in collective American sports consciousness, and the only mainstream sports news attention it receives is when a particular nasty or bloody injury occurs.

As America's most popular sport, football is immune from such a fate.

Considering this, an NFL lockout, regardless of the length, is less a threat to football than the NHL lockout was to hockey.

If the NFL shuts down for five years, there will still be rabid fans ready to lay down their hard earned cash for NFL Sunday Ticket, jerseys and season tickets in 2016.

Still, come Fall, NFL fans will need something to watch won't they?

As long as football is a non-option on the American sports scene, the NHL should do what ever it can to attract wayward gridiron devotees to a game just as thrilling, if not a little mysterious to the average football fan.

This isn't to say that the NHL should attempt to permanently replace football with hockey in the hearts of NFL fans.

But, why not take advantage of the fact that, at least between September and February, the American sports landscape will be decidedly less cluttered?

How could they do this you ask?

Well, first of all, advertising the game in key football hotbeds in Pittsburgh, Dallas, Washington and Philadelphia would be a must.

Are you a heartbroken Steelers fan seeing your Hines Ward jersey gather dust in your closet?

Why not check out a Penguins game and upgrade your No. 86 jersey to No. 87?

Are you an Eagles fan fresh out on parole and are going to bust something unless you get your sports fix?

The Flyers will give you all the brutality you can handle and a chance to see a championship come to Philly.

The teams themselves could provide incentives to NFL fans too.

Cowboys season ticket holders could get half off a Stars season ticket package.

Why not a dollar beer night at the Verizon Center for all fans who show up wearing a Redskins jersey?

The point is, since their own lockout, the NHL has needed something, anything to help them secure new fans and gain a larger piece of the American sports fan's heart.

The absence of NFL football, though tragic (after all, even die-hard hockey fanatics like me will truly miss a lazy Sunday in September of wall-to-wall football) is just such an opportunity.

Come October, there will be millions of football fans searching desperately for their sports fix.

The NHL should be first in line to give it to them.

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