By Akash Vig, Staff Writer
The NHL is back in full swing, but not all fans seem to be extending the warm welcome so many expected. As mentioned in my debut article, reports were swirling that some stubborn fans would not return to the game they constantly relied on for entertainment. This is a reality now, as we’ve passed the halfway mark of the shortened season. A study conducted by consulting firm Brand Finance estimates that the NHL will lose $328.2 million US in brand value during this year alone. This will bring the total post-lockout brand value down to $1.56 billion US, a disappointing total when compared to the numbers produced by the other three major leagues (NFL, MLB, and NBA): $9.13 billion US, $4.41 billion US, and $2.73 billion US respectively.
One of the major challenges the NHL has continued to face over the years is the bittersweet relationship between the players’ union and the league. Hockey is the only professional sport in North America that has seen an entire season wiped out due to contract negotiations. Edgar Baum, managing director of Brand Finance, had this to say regarding the loss of value the NHL has suffered: “It is possible to recover [the brand value], but we’re not seeing any indication that’s going to happen.” He’s absolutely right, as shown by the financial hits endured by your favorite teams. The Vancouver Canucks have already lost $26.6 million US in brand value since the lockout, while the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs have seen their numbers decline by $36.2 million US and $26 million US respectively.
With teams struggling to recover, the “casual fan” isn’t coming back. Broadly, a casual fan of hockey can be defined as someone who attends at least a couple games a year, purchases team merchandise such as jerseys and hats, and pays for sports packages from their local cable providers to watch the games from home. All three of these factors have been spiraling downward, as fans feel there are quite simply other ways to enjoy one’s time. When asked about the situation, one fan responded, “It was an excuse to be social with a group of guys I like to hang out with. Now we’re hanging out doing other things [like skiing]. Turns out we didn’t need hockey to bind us together.” Do you agree with him? Do you feel that there are just-as-good alternatives for social fun, or as Canadians will hockey be that one thing we can always rely on regardless of lockout delays? It’s your call…