Skip to content

History suggests fans will come back if there’s a lockout

Sep 1, 2012, 10:00 AM EDT

Gary Bettman AP

On Thursday, we asked you if you thought public opinion mattered when it came to the ongoing CBA negotiations. A staggering 89% of you don’t think it does and some of the evidence might support your assertion.

As Sportsnet recently pointed out, attendance actually went up following the previous two NHL lockouts. The gains were relatively modest in the lockout-shortened 1994-95 campaign, but after losing the entire 2004-05 season, the NHL enjoyed a 2.4% increase in attendance in 2005-06.

According to the Toronto Star, ticket revenues totaled $1.2 billion in 2010-11, which should highlight just how important ticket sales are to the NHL’s success.

Of course, it’s hard to say if fans will respond to a 2012-13 lockout the same way. As Sportsnet notes, the rule changes following the loss of the 2004-05 season led to an increase in scoring and the post-lockout era marked the start of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin‘s NHL careers. Both players enjoyed explosive rookie seasons and quickly became household names.

Pittsburgh in particular saw a big boost after the lockout and enjoyed a league-leading 33.06% increase in attendance compared to 2003-04.

So the question now is if the NHL will enjoy a similar bounce back if there’s another lockout or if this time things will be different. Hopefully, that’s one question we’ll never find out the answer to because hopefully there won’t be a lockout.

  1. jimw81 - Sep 1, 2012 at 10:08 AM

    in this economic climate i don’t see it happening.

  2. bcsteele - Sep 1, 2012 at 10:10 AM

    Of course we’ll come back. I’ve said that all along…but it wont be for the owners or players. We’ll come back because as I’ve said before the fans seem to be the only ones that really love our sport. Good to hear also that Bettman gets paid whether there’s a season or not. At least I can sleep at night knowing that if a lockout happens my middle class income wont be supporting him.

  3. silversun60 - Sep 1, 2012 at 10:38 AM

    I think in these situations the only fans who may not come back are fairweather fans. The problem with hockey is there aren’t many fairweather fans. I’d venture to say of the big 4, the NHL has the least to lose fan wise.

    Face it… us hardcore fans are coming back and saying please and thank you.

    • mpg44 - Sep 1, 2012 at 11:15 AM

      The fair weather fans out number the hard core fans , that 3 billion profit the league had last year will be significantly smaller when they don’t come back. I’m going to be real upset when the owners have to realize that a lockout means years of reduced income.

      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Sep 1, 2012 at 1:15 PM

        I’ll come back because I already get TSN and they show games almost every night, but I would never pay for a ticket or a jersey or NHL Centre Ice or anything like that.

      • tealwithit - Sep 1, 2012 at 9:35 PM

        I don’t think the fair weather fans are the ones that are really upset about the lockout. Some of them may lose interest because they’ll turn their attention to the NFL or NBA, but if they like going to hockey games, they’ll probably be buying tickets once the season starts. It’s mostly the passionate fans that are actually emotional enough to consider boycotting… And if you’re really a diehard hockey fan, you probably won’t be able to stay away for long.

      • mpg44 - Sep 3, 2012 at 4:04 AM

        No . I would not be able to . But three miles away is an echl team , that will fill some of the void!!

  4. sergeikremlin - Sep 1, 2012 at 11:11 AM

    It’s not the fans on this website that may not be coming back. Obviously, we are hardcore fans that love our hockey. It’s the markets like Phoenix, Florida & Dallas where the hurt will be felt. The overall league attendance will be fine, but those small markets will suffer. They have to work twice as hard to get half as many fans in the building, and the fans they have made over the last few years could easily enjoy their college football & NFL and hockey would be an afterthought with the rinks locked up.

  5. charleslouis99 - Sep 1, 2012 at 11:48 AM

    of course we’ll come back but not the casual fans most likely
    shame on you bettman

    • tealwithit - Sep 1, 2012 at 9:37 PM

      I think I must have missed something. How is this Bettman’s fault?

  6. sjsharks66 - Sep 1, 2012 at 12:16 PM

    I will be running back as soon as a lockout is over…what can I say, I love hockey :/

    • revansrevenant - Sep 1, 2012 at 12:56 PM

      Same here. Hockey is #1 in my book.

      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Sep 1, 2012 at 1:18 PM

        If you love hockey so much why not go to a minor league game instead of lining the pockets of the NHL owners who obviously take you for granted?

  7. csilojohnson - Sep 1, 2012 at 1:11 PM

    I will be back as well. Its a real shame though. With the new TV deal this year it really seemed like the NHL was making a comeback. All the new casual fans they gained by having so many nationally televised games will be gone.

  8. jason9696 - Sep 1, 2012 at 3:04 PM

    Don’t bet on it. Although I’m sure they will come back in hockey crazed markets like Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, New York, Philadelphia, Minnesota and Boston (I’m sure I’m forgetting a few). It’s the other ones that I’m worried about.

  9. id4joey - Sep 1, 2012 at 6:26 PM

    Hockey fans around the world, it’s time to unite. STOP SPENDING on NHL merchandise.

    • hayw2012 - Sep 1, 2012 at 9:14 PM

      I think it’s a clever and realistic suggestion for fans to cut their spending on NHL merchandise or other ‘extras’. Face it, it would be very difficult for many of us to boycott what hockey fans want most -watching games on TV or attending in person. However, I’m sure a good many of us could manage to live without the extra spending on merchandise, etc. Is definitely one way to let our pocketbooks do the talking!

    • tealwithit - Sep 1, 2012 at 9:49 PM

      The league’s facing a lockout because there isn’t enough revenue to go around… So yeah, let’s make the financial situation even worse. Maybe we can even put another couple of teams in the red. That’ll show them.

  10. gotampabay52 - Sep 1, 2012 at 9:21 PM

    Lock out sucks for Tampa we had a great team before last lock out and now we got another good team before this lock out hockey fans will always come back bet fans are hockey fans

  11. manchestermiracle - Sep 2, 2012 at 1:34 AM

    There was a kind of lockout in the NFL for me back when the Rams left Los Angeles and the Raiders turned tail and scurried back to Oakland. After several years of hemming and hawing by the league, despite L.A. being the second largest market in the country, I realized that football done the NFL way was something I could live without. I was already a big college football fan, as well as a fan of Australian-rules football and rugby. Along with following hockey and basketball I found I could live without the NFL.

    Today I’d rather watch a good futbol match (what is called soccer here) than sit through nearly as many minutes of commercials as actual play in the No Fun League. As much as I love hockey at the level played in the NHL, if these yahoos throw a season away I might just quit bothering.

  12. 12is3times4 - Sep 5, 2012 at 9:44 PM

    Most fans will come back, for the same reason they came back in the NFL and NBA. Simply put, there is no substitute for the game played at that level, at least not in North America. I mean, if hockey fans swear off the NHL, where would they go? The KHL? Unless they want to start working the graveyard shift and sleeping in the afternoons, they won’t be able to stream any KHL games live, never mind shelling out thousands of dollars a trip to schlep themselves to Russia to attend games in person.

    When it comes to pro hockey, the NHL is just (yeah, here comes that dreaded phrase again) too big to fail.

Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. R. Johansen (1156)
  2. R. Malone (1149)
  3. S. Bennett (1145)
  4. J. Drouin (1127)
  5. K. Timonen (1125)