2012 NHL Lockout: Closing Down For Sky-High Results

2012 NHL Lockout
Gary Bettman (Kellen/Icon SMI)

Just over a year ago the National Hockey League and the National Hockey League Players Association finally came to terms with a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. It saved the league from what could have been a disastrous situation of losing another full season to a labor dispute. Instead, the league played a 48 game schedule, crammed into three months, which led to a whole lot of hockey in not a lot of time. The impact that the 2012 NHL lockout was going to have on the game was thought to be either catastrophic or beneficial, depending on who you talked to.  Let’s take a look at the impact as we know it so far.

Revenue Impact of the 2012 NHL Lockout

One of the biggest factors everyone was concerned about was the impact on revenue, specifically the far reaching impact on revenues to secondary businesses that depend upon NHL games to fill their establishments. In an interview with Michael O’Callaghan, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau he explained the economic impact on the city of Detroit this time last year.

“The economic infusion to downtown Detroit for each home game is a little more than $2 million dollars. One can safely assume Detroit lost $45 million dollars that it will never get back. Due to the NHL Lockout, the city of Detroit, including bars, restaurants, hotels, etc. lost over $95 million dollars.”

The effect on small businesses was far more reaching than just Detroit. In an interview with USA Today, Joe Kasel, owner of Eagle Street Grille in Minnesota had to lay off 32 of his 48 staff members. Also in the interview, a manager of Brewhouse Downton in Nashville estimated a $5,000 loss for every cancelled home game, leading to roughly $189,000 that he will never get back.

The hospitality industry suffered losses that it won’t ever recoup. Although the National Hockey League suffered losses as well, they are making it back this year with the creation of the Stadium Series. The 2014 Winter Classic alone produced $20 million in revenue for the league.


Coming out of the lockout, the league was hoping the fans would come back (again) for the sport they love. Well, they sure did. The first day of the 2013 season, NBC registered it’s highest regular season game outside of the Winter Classic in 11 years. The 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs were the most watched since ratings started being kept. Viewership was up 91% above the previous final between New Jersey and Los Angeles.

Sure, a big reason is the fact that Boston and Chicago are two huge markets and original six teams, however, this was still after the league cancelled half the season just seven years after becoming the first of the ‘Big Four’ professional sports to cancel an entire season, both to labor disputes.

Oh, and the ratings are up this year as well. The 2014 Winter Classic just made television history for hockey viewership in Canada and the United States.


Last season, the league set a new record for average number of fans per game.

This season is more of the same. As of January 13th, the league is averaging 17,386 fans per game, which is aided in part due to the Winter Classic, but should continue to increase as the playoffs grow closer and each game grows more important.

Oh, and there is this small development:

The league is on a growth spurt, like a teenager going through puberty. With a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in place for the foreseeable future, the league expanding it’s outdoor games, and an an influx of young talent in large markets, the league should continue it’s growth. The game has never been as popular as it is now and with the large presence on social media and alternative media outlets, it’s reaching new audience members daily.

The impact and losses felt by outside sources will most likely never be recovered, however, they can hope for continued growth to reach their establishments Most analysts thought the lockout would be another stake in the heart of a game that has always been considered a niche sport. Instead, it has had the opposite affect. The die hard fans came back stronger than ever, and with the continued partnership with NBC and NBC Sports, the league has continued to get its product out there for consumption. It’s an exciting time for hockey right now, only time will tell how high the league can continue to rise.

12 thoughts on “2012 NHL Lockout: Closing Down For Sky-High Results”

  1. I know there are many reasonable arguments to be made for the ’12 lockout being a necessary evil. But I think they understate the real truth, which is that the NHL’s owners and players don’t care about the game’s fans one iota and have serious trouble reaching even basic compromises. I’m happy hockey is back and will be for at least another six seasons after this one, but the opt-out is scary – with this league, we’re seemingly assured of another lockout.
    No other professional league in North America has that problem.

  2. As annoyed as I was after the lockout, it’s nice to see the league recovering. I’m interested to see how things will turn out in Canada with the new Rogers deal.

  3. Emotionally, I wanted to boycott the league when it returned, but I recognize that it is a business and the owners (and commissioner) will always do what’s best for the owners. Same can be said for the players, I guess. Love to see the NHL passing the NBA as well.

  4. Nice work. It’s very easy and tempting to read this simply as the rich get richer. We fans got our game back but at a price. And no one should be surprised if work stoppages become not an occasional outrage but rather a part of the fabric of the game. At any rate my only real gripe is that we continue to call it a lockout when it was a player’s strike by proxy.

  5. It’s great to see the country embracing the sport. It probably will never quite reach the level of football or baseball in the USA but it’s making a tremendous push since the lockout. Glad to see this beauitful sport finally being appreciated! Now if only ESPN would embrace it…

  6. Damien – fantastic article. I loved the way that you looked at everything separately from ratings to attendance and even revenue. All of which are huge parts of what runs the business that is the National Hockey League. It’s interesting the losses on the small business, and how it affected Detroit in such a way that it became so noticeable.

    Another point that might be interesting to look at is how the Stadium Series is in large part expected to boost the overall revenue, but how the games besides the Winter Classic haven’t actually been as much of a hit as the NHL expected with ticket sales not being where they thought they would be.

    All around great article though.

  7. Hockey fans are an interesting breed. As much as many of us said we would never come back to watch or attend etc… we do. It is one of the greatest sports in the World. This was a great piece and knowing that we have many years until we might have to worry about it again makes it that much better.

    • Funny you should mention the boycotting John – I wrote an article last year during the lockout for school where I interviewed Elliotte Friedman, Tim Wharnsby and a young man who said he was boycotting the NHL looking at whether or not fans would come back. Interesting topic and a fun piece to write.

      • I know that I was upset about another work stoppage so close to the last one. I remember saying to myself that I wasn’t going to come back but maybe just maybe watch a game 7 in the finals if there was one and so on. Then I remember checking Twitter all day everyday with the updates to see them getting closer and closer. Then when a deal was reached I read it on Twitter when it happened because my wife woke me with her snoring so since I was up I checked and was thrilled.

        Once the season started I watched everything. Then I went to the draft in New Jersey and got the sickness back 110%.

        This season I have watched games every single day and don’t see that stopping anytime.

        I guess I am saying that in the end we really don’t fully boycott anything other than Johnny Depp movies. That is one I have stuck with so far.

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