If you are keeping track of the lockout on playing cards, it’s about time to open a new pack. As the lockout enters its 52nd day, more and more people seem to be swearing off the NHL for good. All November games have been canceled, the Winter Classic has been axed, and both sides have barely met in the past month. But you’ll be back, you’ll all be back, and it’s because of the Stanley Cup.
It’s easy to see why fans are growing frustrated with the NHL. And with the World Series ending quickly, the lack of hockey is becoming more and more prevalent. But where will hockey fans turn? The NBA? But do more points really equal more fun?
While there might be some allure to a hockey fan of a game between the Blue Jackets and Islanders (Still getting to see Tavares, Jack Johnson, Rick DiPietro sitting in the press box, hurt) That same allure is not going to be there for a game between the Milwaukee Bucks and Charlotte Bobcats. And watching the Lakers, Heat, and Thunder is better, is it really that fun to watch 10 players not play defense for 75% of the game? The bottom line is I don’t think NBA players have the heart on a night to night basis to attract hockey fans for good.
How about the NFL? It is the most popular sport in the US after all. But when roughly 85% of games fall on 1 day of the week, that leaves the average fan a lot of time during the week without competition. How are fans suppose to fill that void? You can tweak your fantasy lineups, talk about how great your team’s kicker is and what kind of toothpaste Tim Tebow uses all you want, you are still going to have time on your hands. The 6 day gap of no competition is quite the gap for a traditional hockey fan. The biggest adjustment for hockey fans to football however, is the lack of action. You might see a 4 hour game, but you’re probably getting 20-30 minutes of actual, plays are being run, football. I think for a casual hockey fan, the overall lack of action in football, and the 16 game season would be too many/big negatives to keep a fan away from the NHL for good.
But lets say all of this happened. This casual fan decides to become a Memphis Grizzlies fan, and becomes the 8th Jacksonville Jaguars fan, and decides to take up a hobby; coin collecting, perhaps. Well, say this all happens, and then a collective bargaining agreement is reaching. However, this casual fans stays strong to his word and focuses on other things. Well, come June, when hockey highlights find there way onto Sportscenter, I believe this casual fan will see them, hear about them, wonder about them, enough to turn on a game. It is the finals after all.
And what will they see? They will see 2 teams, 46 players, give their all to win a 35 pound cup. They will play hurt, they will put their bodies in the way of 100mph slapshots, all for a chance to win the Stanley Cup. There is a dedication level in hockey, that is unparalleled in sports, and that is no better shown, then during the Stanley Cup Finals. I believe the casual fan sticks around for the finals, to see the one moment, where the captain finally can grab the cup, and hoist it above their head in victory. There is no comparison is sports for that moment. You can’t replace that moment with something else. The ultimate challenge of your physical and mental abilities is capped off with one of the most iconic moments in any given sports year. A perfect example of this: 2003 Stanley Cup Finals, Paul Kariya, Scott Stevens. This is a great 4 minute video, and it is something you don’t see in any other sport.
That is exactly why the casual fan will be back.
Lets face it, the NHL is like cigarette company. You know they are exploiting you for your money, they don’t care about your feelings or your health, as long as they have your money. You know the relationship is bad, but you just can’t get away. The only way to get of cigarette companies is to stop smoking. Not smoke once a week, not smoke once a month, but just stop.
I know the people saying they are swearing off the NHL will be back, because there are too many influences to go back. The fact that they are telling people they are going to stop supporting the NHL just shows that they still care about the NHL. It’s like buying stock in a cigarette company, and then saying you’re going to quit. Sure it might happen, but I highly doubt it.
Fans are angry, and rightfully so, the lockout sucks, but lets be honest, when the puck does drop, and the cup is raised, you’ll be watching. Lets just hope we don’t burn through another deck of playing cards.