The lockout is finally over. I will start off by saying this is hopefully the last lockout article I will ever have to type up.
So everyone in the hockey world knows by now that the lockout is over. Players are ready to get back on the ice, and fans are prepared to watch their beloved game. Or are they? The biggest question remaining from this lockout other than player conditioning is in regards to fan reception; what will it be? Some have speculated that the players might be booed as the skate out onto the ice for the opening games. Others say fans will not show up in big numbers as they did before the labor debacle. So what will it be? Other than the actual hockey games, I think the most interesting aspect to look at will be fan reactions. There may not be a conclusion to how fans have reacted until after this abbreviated season is over. When final attendance numbers are released in early summer (maybe mid-summer this season) we will be able to hypothesize whether the lockout had a negative effect on the NHL fan base or not. Maybe we will see the booing of players during opening day games, which would be outrageous in my eyes. The most realistic expectation is a drop in fan attendance. There is no way the NHL will receive the same attention after a lockout as frustrating as this one. Not only that, but some fans may be turned off by a 48 game season (set to begin on the 19th of this month). One cannot realistically expect all fans to return with the same enthusiasm as they did before the labor dispute. Diehard fans like myself, our other staff writers, and our close followers will likely return as though nothing happened. We are hungry to watch, and it would be nearly impossible for a passionate fan to stay away from the game. However, the NHL will lose the less connected fans, if they have not already, to other professional sports that have actually been playing games.
Follow me on Twitter: @Gabriel0430