The most fun "what if" question as the NHL lockout burned through the holidays and threatened to ruin January was, "How much damage has been done?"
Surely it's the kind of image damage that free popcorn and concessions doesn't cure. But the NHL has always known what its fans know: It's the most compelling hockey product out there, with the best-quality players and most historic story lines, so the addicts will still want their fix even if they hate the dealer. In a bizarre way, our passion made the lockout possible.
Here at Lighthouse Hockey, the writers went through the full spate of emotions that so many fans did: Anger, resentment, resignation, compartmentalization, realism, patience, impatience, and pondering pledges we know we can't keep. We wrote for a declining number of readers ... who promptly returned in floods once news of the lockout's end broke.
If FanPosts can be believed, we know of at least one fan who won't return. But if you're reading this, or if by some error you watch the lockout-drunk, Navajo rug-inspired clip below, then it's pretty clear your interest in the NHL or one of its teams has not gone away.
That said, do you plan to punish the league? Do you plan to withhold Frans you normally spend on it? Watch less, and hit the leagues Nielsen ratings? Will you attend fewer games, buy fewer services (e.g. Center Ice), purchase less/no merchandise as your way of saying, "Sorry, great sport, horrible management"?
And if so, how long do you intend your protest?
My initial instinct as a fan is yes, yes, yes I'll withhold my money. My next instinct is a sympathetic nod to how both teams I follow are not revenue giants whose imbalance fuels the disparity the league refuses to adequately address. And then I realize most fans probably rationalize their own returns in similar ways.
I'll try to put a lock on my wallet, but they've got me. They always do. They'll find a way back in.