Many feared the backlash of a shortened NHL season. Hockey is not very popular in America, especially in the south, but commissioner Gary Bettman said the league is not suffering.
He said stadiums are reaching 97.4% of capacity and ratings on a national and local level are up. A few teams reported double and triple digit rating gains this season. The 48 game season started in January and was literally saved at the last possible minute.
“We don’t take our fans for granted,” Bettman said. “Our fans are passionate about the game, they get angry when they have reasons to be angry, they are excited when they have reasons to be excited, they are emotional, but most of all they are well-informed. Overwhelmingly, fans understand what we need to do and what we have done. They come back because they love the game. We are grateful on a daily basis for our fans.”
Many teams offered fans promotions when the season started. The Dallas Stars allowed one child in free with an adult purchase through February and the Ottawa Senators did that for their first 10 games. The Nashville Predators allowed fans who attended their first game to attend the second game free and offered discounted concessions. The Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks held raffles to win a road trip with the team, including a flight on the team’s charter plane.
The 113-day lockout ended on January 6 after a 16-hour negotiating session with a 10-year collective-bargaining agreement. The NHL and union can opt out after eight years. This lockout cancelled the beloved Winter Classic, an outdoor game played on New Year’s Day and the All-Star Game.
Saturday is the last day of the regular season. The Stanley Cup Playoffs start on Tuesday, April 30.