How badly has the lockout hurt the NHL?
Throughout the lockout many fans have said they would not come back to the game once it resumed. It’s hard to say whether or not they meant that or were just frustrated. In my opinion, no true fan could give up the game that easily. Over the next few weeks we will see how things develop as far as attendance and television ratings. The casual fan may not come back right away. These fans would watch if a game was on, but not actively seek out the game. Before the lockout the NHL was marketing to draw in the casual fan. They used the Winter Classic and Sunday NBC games as platforms. There will not be a Winter classic until next year, but I believe the NBC game of the week will still bring in fans. Casual fans will see that hockey is back and give it another go. It’s the stubborn people the league has to worry about.
A lot of fans were screwed over with this lockout, but most of them are incredibly happy to see the game is back. Some are angry that the two sides were being greedy over money and don’t morally want to be a part of the game any more. On the other hand there are many self-righteous people out there that believe they are owed something in return. I too would be interested in something like that, but it is not necessary for me. I’ve heard things like: Free Center Ice, Game Center, or discounts on merchandise or tickets. I would certainly enjoy any of those options, however not all are possible.
Free Center Ice is nearly impossible. The NHL doesn’t have full ownership of the package, a company called inDEMAND does. They would need the approval of every cable and satellite company that offers the Center Ice package. It is very unlikely the cable companies would do that. However, the other options are more reasonable as the NHL has more control over them.
Today the Commissioner alluded to something of this nature and apologized:
“To the players who were very clear that they wanted to be on the ice and not negotiating labor contracts, to our partners who support the league … and most importantly to our fans who love and have missed NHL hockey, I’m sorry,” Bettman said in an opening statement after owners approved the deal. “I know an explanation or an apology will not erase the hard feelings that have built up over the last few months, but I owe you an apology nonetheless.”
“As commissioner of the National Hockey League, it sometimes falls upon me to make tough decisions that disappoint, and occasionally anger players and fans,” Bettman said. “This was a long, an extremely difficult negotiation, one that took a lot longer than anybody wanted. I know it caused frustration, disappointment and even suffering to a lot of people who have supported the National Hockey League.”
Bettman said plans were still being made on what will be done for fans to welcome them back. He said he has read blogs, and letters and comments from fans and understands their frustration.
“I think the prevailing thing is that our fans are incredibly passionate about our game,” Bettman said. “They were frustrated and disappointed by the fact that we weren’t playing. Frankly, they didn’t care who was at fault. They wanted hockey back. And I completely understand that. … It’s my responsibility to them to try to make it right.”
Maybe he’s not so bad after all. Especially if he gives us free stuff.
Overall, I do not think the NHL will take too big of a hit from the lockout. The majority of the fans are just ready to see some hockey and happy they will be able to.