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NHL has work to do to win back fans after lockout

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 18, 2013 at 5:14 pm •  Published: January 18, 2013

The Tampa Bay Lightning offered fans free lunch if they showed up for practice Friday and those attending Boston Bruins games this month can get free grub, too. Molson Canadian will pass out beer samples at the home openers in Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa and Edmonton.

Pittsburgh and Buffalo are among the teams slashing prices on merchandise as a kickback to fans. The Dallas Stars and other clubs are offering free tickets to kids, hoping to expose the sport to a younger generation in the hopes of hooking them on a game that is tough to beat in person.

Winning, of course, helps.

"If you get one good Cup run and get the people in the building, then they can see what it's like to watch live and feel that buzz and that electricity in the crowd," Stars forward Brenden Morrow said. "I don't think you find it in any other sporting event. You've just got to get them in the building."

Not everyone, of course, can afford to buy a ticket and some states don't even have a team.

That's why hockey is hoping to fare better on TV, the best source of revenue in sports.

The NHL has almost bounced back from the viewership totals it had before the last lockout, which wiped out the 2004-05 season. Boston's win in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup finals drew the sport's highest rating in 37 years.

Ratings were down for last year's finals with the Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils despite having two teams from large markets after the first three rounds of the playoffs attracted the largest average audience since 1997.

Restarting the season now — as the NFL is winding down, college football is done and baseball is idle — might help the NHL.

"They got rid of the right games during the lockout because there isn't as much competition compared to when they usually start seasons," Ganis said. "What will be interesting to watch is whether the lack of an uprising from fans is because they expected the lockout, or because there isn't a depth of passion for the sport in this country."


AP Sports Writers Andrew Seligman, Rusty Miller, Schuyler Dixon, Dan Gelston and Fred Goodall contributed to this report.


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