Are the Fans the NHL Owners' Biggest Weapon?

The growing sentiment surrounding the labor dispute in the NHL is that the season will not start on time and there will be no deal reached by the September 15th deadline.  The original drafts had wage cuts, lower salary caps that expected, and less negotiating power.  Many fans probably feel as though they are on the side of the players whose livelihood is at stake in some ways.  With the expansion of social media, there is more information in the hopper to pick sides.  However, the fans may not realize they are the biggest weapon in the corner of the NHL owners.
This idea was brought to my attention by Darren Rovell and the point is valid.

Union leader Donald Fehr arrives for a players' meeting on 8/29.
 When the supposed 88th season of play in the National Hockey League was canceled in 2004-2005 the fans came back with more fervor than before.  Ten months and six days of a lockout did nothing to keep  the fans of this niche sport away.  Revenue has reached one billion dollars and may speak to hockey being more than a niche sport, but higher television contracts in the United States and abroad have helped a lot.  Also, moving a franchise back to Winnipeg provide a lot of revenue opportunities.

In late August, Commissioner Gary Bettman even stated that the reason the league recovered from the last lockout was because the NHL "has the greatest fans in the world."  The last time the owners were right in wanting a salary cap and they held out.  The fans came back providing more and more revenue each year.  The folks over at Broad Street Hockey help me get to my point.

There may be points against hockey being a niche sport in the United States, but the current situation does not provide further clout to said information.  Hockey is way of life in Canada, but the Stanley Cup has been living in the U.S.  The fans want it.  They need it.  They are begging for the owners and players to come together.

Did Don Cherry say something about $14,000 for two tickets?  Yes, because we will pay for them.  We will buy the draft day hat.  Although the fan base may be smaller than other major sports, it is an eclectic group that loves new merchandise and knows the feeling of being inside of arena.  That feeling is unmatched.

So you may tweet to an NHL player that you want to see them play or that you are on their side.  They understand, but at the same time you are lurking behind the owners that have all the confidence you can handle that you will come back to the arena like nothing ever happened.  Yes there were some casual fans along the way.  Los Angeles winning the cup and New York making a long run helped with that.  Will they be back?  It is hard to say.  We may see them again for the playoffs, if there are any.  All the folks at PensUniverse will be back.  That is part of why we do this.  We love the game.  We have an appreciation of the skill.  Unfortunately, we have perpetuated the greed.

Will there be a season this year so this can all be forgotten and we can get on with our passionate, and sometimes pompous, cheering?  I'm not sure.  The owners know what they are doing.  They watched the negotiations of the NBA and the NFL and will not allow the players to take more than 50% of the revenue.  The precedent is set.  Labor negotiations in sports seems to be good for business.  The players cannot afford to sit back.  Patience is on the side of the owners and we are partially the reason.  


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