Return to story
SPORTS FANS suffering from Redskins withdrawal may soon be able to self-medicate with another sport: Hockey appears to be on its way back after a four-month lockout.
NHL owners and players are expected to ratify an agreement reached by negotiators this past weekend, clearing the way for a 48- to 50-game season, beginning in a week or two. The deal offers a 50-50 revenue split and will be in place for 10 years, which should add some stability to the sport.
Now, the question is, will fans come back? Kurt Badenhausen, sports writer for Forbes, notes that attendance actually increased for some teams after the 2004-2005 strike, which wiped out an entire season.
The NHL knows that a rebound is crucial. Of the four major professional sports, hockey is the most reliant on its fan base: 47 percent of its income is directly dependent on fans' purchases of seats, parking, and food at arenas, and other hockey paraphernalia. That's because hockey lacks the lucrative media deals of the other sports.
Speaking of media, the main outlet for hockey, NBC Sports Network, may be cheering at the resumption of the sport more than anyone. Without the icemen this fall, one of its top-rated shows (with 147,000 viewers) was "Elk Fever." C'mon. The Caps will do better than that!