NHL Set To Return. What About Fans?


The NHL is returning to the ice after a work stoppage that wiped-out half the current season before it ever got started.

The big question I have is, will fans return or will there be large number of discontented souls who’ve lost interest as a result?

NHL LogoFor me, the stoppage was a real punch to the gut. I grew up playing hockey so it’s my favorite sport by a wide margin. When other sports started having issues with labor shut-downs  I was always able to say that hockey was different. They knew they weren’t in the same “league” as professional baseball, football or basketball. Greed seemed like less of an issue in this sport—until 1992.

We’ve now gone through four major labor debates that took the game away from the fans and I can’t think it’ll end up being a positive. First of all, there’s a number of teams on the very brink of going under and losing half a season might just be the final straw for them. If that happens, good-bye to fans in those areas likely forever.

For me, I’m not sure what I’ll do. When Major League Baseball cancelled the World Series after one of their disputes I was a huge baseball fan. I was involved in an early fantasy baseball league that meant I knew players all the way down to rookie ball (kids still in high school, or slightly older). I had a sports pager. I watched ESPN religiously twice every single day. That all ended with that stoppage. If they’d cancel a tradition that extended more than 100 years then it was clear to me that neither the owners or the players gave a damn about the fans. I swore then that I’d never give them another dime. That strike was in 1994—almost 20 years ago now—and I’ve been to three baseball games since. I only went because someone gave me the tickets.

You know what was most enlightening? I realized I didn’t miss it at all. I suddenly realized I had so much more time to do other things that mattered. That realization had an impact that reached beyond baseball. I started to pull away from football as well and, slowly but surely, I found I was no longer following that sport either. Hockey, however, remained a constant in my life.

I’m not yet ready to say I’m done with it but, then again, maybe I just won’t have the interest to tune in once it’s back later this month. Time will tell.

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