Anyone who is a 'hardcore' hockey fan hasn't and won't allow any labor dispute to affect their view of the game. Philadelphia Flyers' loyalists are no different.
These specific fans represent a strong force that some find to be intimidating. But, they shouldn't be feared, or jeered. Instead, labeling them as fellow hockey brothers and sisters would be most accurate.
Whenever everything has been resolved, it will be interesting to see how those teams with the highest average attendance figures are affected this time around. Everyone understands ticket sold counts, verses actual people in the building. But, the numbers are still interesting to consider.
Last season the top-five ranked NHL teams were the: Chicago Blackhawks, Montreal Canadiens, Flyers (20,433), Detroit Red Wings, and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Their attendance averages ranged from the Blackhawks' high of 21,533 per game, to the Maple Leafs' 19,506 per game.
In the 2003-04 season the top-five ranked teams were the: Canadiens, Red Wings, Maple Leafs, Flyers (19,375), and Vancouver Canucks. Their attendance averages ranged from the Canadiens' high of 20,555 per game, to the Canucks' 18,630 per game.
The 2004-05 season was not played, due to a lockout. Upon returning to the ice for the 2005-06 season, the top-five ranked teams were the: Canadiens, Tampa Bay Lightning, Red Wings, Flyers (19,653), and Ottawa Senators. Their attendance averages ranged from the Canadiens' high of 21,273 per game to the Senators' 19,474 per game.
If part, or all of this season is wiped out the overwhelming bulk of Flyers' fans are likely to return to their team. That's because they are smart consumers of the product that is known as professional hockey.
Smart Flyers' fans?
Consumers will continue purchasing any product that they believe has provided them with a fair return on their money, time, and emotional investment.
Those who believe that Flyers' fans are blind loyalists apparently must not have followed any team, or any sport, for an extended period of time. In others words, those non-fans would be making proclamations about issues that they had no real-life experience with themselves.
Individuals who attempt to label any team's loyal fan base as anything other then dedicated, purely seem to do so as a calculated attempt to provoke response. If those personality types actually believe their own words, then they must have no brand loyalty to any company (including all non-sports related businesses).
If the National Hockey League and the Players' Association can't agree on a new collective bargaining agreement by September 15, 2012, the season is unlikely to start on time. Who can really say if a shortened-season would be played, or if this dispute would then extend through the summer of 2013?
Like many people, I would shift my interest by following and attending minor league hockey games. Those of us who are fortunate enough to live within range of various minor hockey arenas know that each venue offers its own appealing atmosphere. Supporting those local businesses is also particularly important due to current economic circumstances that exist across North America.
Anyone who states that they will never attend another NHL game, due to a lockout, is employing emotional logic.
It's certainly understandable that people make emotional connections with players and teams. Effective entertainment is intended to 'move' you. But, these athletes are paid employees of a business that entertains a willing public who chooses to foot the bills.
Most Flyers' fans are like all other fans. They will adapt to the reality that any lockout brings, follow other hockey leagues, and then continue supporting their NHL team whenever it reopens for business.
Sean O'Brien is based in the Philadelphia region. He has written professionally for over two decades and is currently a Featured Contributor for Yahoo! You can follow him on Twitter @SeanyOB and also read his daily Sports Blog: Insight.
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