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:
— Jed Hughes (@JedHughesKF) January 9, 2014
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.
Damien is a contributing writer covering the Philadelphia Flyers for The Hockey Writers and Buzz On Broad. He is finishing up a degree in Communication and Sport Management from DeSales University and is currently a Digital Media Intern at Comcast SportNet Philadelphia.