The popular opinion around here seems to be that the fans will always come back and really have no stake in the dispute at all. I keep reading regular posters here stating that we'll all come back and any threats to boycott are a joke. I'm not so sure.
I know I'll come back, although I think I'll watch more games on tv and buy less tickets. And I think the Bruins will be fine, along with the big fan base teams. But the picture in the 10-12 smaller NHL markets is a lot different, I think. If a major part of this dispute is to make more markets economically viable and remove the profit margin struggles, I think this work stoppage is just as likely to backfire. I think the aggressive negotiations on the part of the owners are being dictated by the owners of big market teams that see the potential for much better, more reliable incomes. But the smaller market owners are undoubtedly playing with fire and taking on all of the risk.
Here is the perspective from Denver, decsribed by respected NHL writer Adrian Dater.
His argument could be laughed off in Boston, or New York, or Toronto, but I think it's wholly realistic for Denver. If a prolonged strike loses 10-20% of the season ticket base, it could easily ruin the franchise. The Avs have experienced steeply declining interest and ticket sales already, despite being in a good sports town that experienced major population growth and downtown economic growth right through the recession. You can laugh at fan threats of boycotts all you want, but if 10% of the core fans in Denver, Columbus, Nashville, New Jersey, Phoenix, Florida, etc. decide that enough is enough, it will put those franchises in tremendous peril. Sure a couple can move to new markets, but not 8 or 10. At the end of the day a successful NHL needs economically viable teams through the league, or the product will start to crumble.
I think the big team owners have conned the small team owners into to taking on a risk that is vastly different for their different franchises. The Jeremy Jacobs type is happy to fight on with minimal risk, while the smaller franchises twist in the wind. Maybe the eventual CBA will make hockey in Denver more viable in the future. But in the present, it might just drive the frachise away.
The fans should have the attention of ownership here. What's left of them anyhow. A better profit margin for Jacobs might be a nail in the coffin for another owner.