NHL Fans: Not Much To Be Thankful For

New York Ranger fans had a lot to be excited for coming into the 2012-2013 season.  Coming off a deep playoff run that fell just short of a Stanley Cup birth, a young and talented team bolstered by the signing of one of the NHL’s brightest stars Rick Nash, the Rangers were poised to contend for the top spot in the Eastern Conference and challenge for a Stanley Cup.  However, the 4th lockout in the last 20 years has left Ranger fans wondering if the only team they’ll see at MSG this year are the resurgent New York Knicks.

The NHL and NHLPA are still very far from coming to an agreement and we’ve already seen the first few months of the season cancelled.  The NHL’s biggest event of the year – a snow-filled outdoor spectacle held on New Year’s Day known as “The Winter Classic” – was also nixed.  While it’s too early to call this a lost season, each passing week hope begins to fade and the integrity of the sport declines.

True hockey fans are some of the most passionate fans in the world; but compared to the MLB and NFL, there just isn’t a deep enough group of loyal fans in smaller markets to survive a lost season.  These lockouts always seem to happen after a great season in which, for example, the L.A. Kings shocked the league with an incredible Stanley Cup run, bringing excitement and enthusiasm to the game in a non-traditional market.  That type of run is what inspires fringe fans to become hockey passionistas; without the game, these newly inspired fans quickly move on and may never return.  Momentum fades and passion for the game recedes into the dark, cold winter.  I’m afraid that a lost year would amount to industrial suicide for hockey.

The lockout hurts not only fans but all economic interests involved; stadiums are left empty and concession vendors, ticket and security personnel, and many more employees of the game are left without work because of the greed on both sides of the bargaining table.  These people need the work much more than players earning a few hundred thousand dollars (the league minimum) to multi-millions, or the owners who bring home hundreds of millions.  The NHL and Players Union need to come to grips with the fact that the NHL cannot afford to squabble all of the progress it has made since the last lockout.  Get the product back on the ice, fans back in their seats, and people who depend on the game for a living back to work.

**Latest Update — Confirmed reports have surfaced that indicate that the season has been cancelled through December 14th, including All-Star Weekend.

Joe Fried

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