So is all forgiven if the NHL starts on November 2nd? Will the crowds return a month to late? Will Gary Bettman go back to being the not-so-lovable villain instead of the despised count? Will fans buy jerseys and watch games and blow every small detail out of proportion? Can the NHL renew within its game by starting almost a month late?
Well, if we look into the distant past (last year), the NBA lockout lasted almost two months. It was a bitter battle between the owners and players full of harsh words and hurt feelings that left fans on the sideline. The result was a 50/50 split in revenues and a rejuvenated league that had perhaps its best year in league history.
It’s a model the NHL can run with. While the NBA gave basketball to the fans as a Christmas present on December 25th, the NHL would be giving us hockey on North and South Dakota’s Statehood Day. The NHL would still enter the arena as the fourth most popular sport with structural problems, but it has been growing consistently since the last lockout. The NHL has the stars and the draw of the Winter Classic and the Playoffs to draw fans back in. In the end it’s the game of hockey that wins fans over, otherwise the league would have no fans left.
The NHL has fixed its revenue sharing and parity problems since the last lockout. The turnover and competitiveness of the regular season and the playoffs has made the league exciting. While goal scoring has decreased, the excitement level is much higher than in the clutch-and-grab NHL before the last lockout. Now it’s up to the players to figure out how to make the owners deal work before the deadline to save hockey. If they miss this opportunity there might not be a fan base to come back to when all is said and done.