How an NHL Lockout Might Affect the National Lacrosse League

Jim Flannery@@calgaryjimboAnalyst ISeptember 15, 2012

(Photo: nll.com)
(Photo: nll.com)

With a lengthy lockout looming for the NHL, winter sports fans are now faced with the prospect of going without one of the major North American pro sports for a prolonged period of time.

Many fans who recall the cancellation of the 2004-2005 hockey season will focus their attention on the NFL and/or NBA, but some might be willing try something a little different and give the National Lacrosse League a chance.

From that perspective, the NLL would love to see a prolonged work stoppage from the NHL.

Hockey fans who are used to spending their time and money at the arena might be swayed to shift that investment to a game that is similar to what they're used to, but not quite identical.

Earlier this year, the NLL avoided the mess the NHL is currently in when the owners and players reached an agreement on a one-year deal for the 2013 season that ensures the league will get through another season without labor strife.

With seven of the nine NLL franchises in cities that are home to NHL teams, luring hockey fans to the stadium to give box lacrosse a try seems like an obvious strategy—and with NLL ticket sales waning steadily over the last several years, getting more people in the seats is a priority.

Of course, the problem with that whole strategy is that the NLL teams in NHL towns tend to get a lot of cross-pollination from advertising at hockey games.

Take away the hockey games and it's more challenging to reach that audience with the lacrosse message.

The league needs to take a good, hard look at their marketing model and decide if now is the time to go all-in—aggressively market themselves for the upcoming year and hope it pays dividends at the turnstiles.

In my humble opinion, this is as good an opportunity as they are likely to get in the immediate future.

Then again, it's potentially a big gamble considering that a return to work for the NHL before the NLL's January 5 opening day would render the whole venture academic.


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