Non-sports fans, casual sports fans or sports fans who don’t care a whole lot about professional hockey may have missed some pretty big news recently: the NHL lockout is over.
It seems that in the past few years American professional sports have tended to gravitate toward lockouts. We are, after all, only a year removed from the year that featured an NFL lockout (with no games missed) and an NBA lockout (with a terrible, reduced schedule), not to mention the NHL lockout from 2004.
So when people found out there was going to be yet another lockout for a professional sport, the general response (except among die-hard NHL fans) was a mere shoulder shrug. Oh well. Been there, done that. They’ll figure it out eventually.
When the NBA first missed games last year, I vowed that I would boycott any shred of a season that would ever come to fruition. And, of course, when my beloved Lakers faced the Bulls on Christmas day to start a compacted schedule…I caved and jumped right in.
So when the NHL followed suit with the most recent off season, I didn’t even try to fool myself. I’m not going to boycott anything–I just don’t believe strongly enough in an abstract game meant solely for entertainment’s sake to follow through with such an idea.
But I’m not as big of a fan of hockey as I am of the NBA. So if I really wanted to, would I miss it that much?
After all, my favorite team, the Nashville Predators, lost one of their best players in a heart-breaking free agency move by Ryan Suter. This is following what is technically one of the most successful seasons the franchise ever had, with a second round playoff exit.
But in recent years, as the team proved to be more competitive and made moves that made sense hockey-wise and not just financially, I moved from being a “casual” hockey fan to a “serious” hockey fan (not quite “die-hard,” however).
The difference? I now knew not only the names of the star players, but the names of some of the more obscure players, not only on “my” team, but on the opposing teams as well. I now legitimately didn’t like the Red Wings. Like, really. I hate those guys. Every win over that team was magical.
So I should have something invested in the return of the NHL, right?
But I just don’t really give a damn. I’m all in on the NFL playoffs. I’m just getting into the meat of the NBA season (even though the aforementioned Lakers, who I root for in the NBA, are having a miserable season thus far). I kind of got used to hockey not being a “thing” in my life.
I know people around me who are excited. I don’t know. I just can’t find it in me to care a whole lot.
Will I watch games once it’s back? Probably. Especially if the Predators are any good this season. Will I dive in an be as big a fan as I was before the lockout? I honestly don’t think so.
And it isn’t a matter of principle. I’m not upset with the players/owners over the lockout (well, at least not enough to really care), I’m just not really interested.
Obviously the NHL isn’t going to miss me. I went to a few games and I watched a bunch on TV. I bought a jersey. The revenue that’s lost is almost non-existent to begin with.
The problem for the NHL lies in the fact that it’s unlikely that I’m alone.
I considered myself a “serious” fan, and I’m already apathetic about the season. Casual fans? Many of them are probably gone.
Obviously the lifeblood of the sport, the die-hard fans, are going to come back for the most part. But there may be just enough of us “serious” fans and “casual” fans who just don’t really care.
I hope I’m wrong. I hope hockey comes back full-force. But it’s hard to miss games due to a lockout twice within an eight year span without a pretty large fallout.
I hope it was worth it.