Penguins captain Sidney Crosby understood why fans are upset over the third lockout in Commissioner Gary Bettman's 20-year tenure.
"I don't blame anyone for being frustrated with this process," Crosby said. "Everyone's got to be frustrated with the way this has gone. It's pretty easy for everyone involved to feel that way."
Kind of like they sing in a song about union executive director Donald Fehr's old sport, some fans vow it's one, two, three lockouts and they're out.
"I wouldn't blame them if they did that by any stretch," Penguins forward Craig Adams said, "but I can't predict that."
It's actually pretty easy to call this shot.
For all the angry tweets, texts, threats and organized campaigns, fans will still pick up the remote and print out tickets as soon as the strife ends.
They always do. In every sport. Remember 1994? After the World Series was wiped out, baseball loyalists vowed never to return to the old ball game. Fueled by super-sized sluggers and retro ballparks, attendance topped 60 million in 1996, 70 million in 1998 and soared to 79,503,175 in 2007.
The NHL, of course, can't match those numbers. But the story arc is still the same. The NHL drew 20,854,169 fans when the sport returned in 2005-06 â¿¿ 497,970 more than the total in 2003-04, the season before the lockout.
The NHL saw an attendance uptick each of the next three seasons and totaled a record 21,468,121 fans in 2011-12.
Fans are filling stadiums from A (Air Canada) to X (Xcel Energy) and most geographic points in between. If there are fans still holding out over the lost season and refusing to step foot inside an NHL arena, they're at least throwing on their oversized Winter Classic sweaters and watching from home.
The 2004 Stanley Cup finals between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Calgary Flames averaged 3.286 million viewers on ABC/ESPN, the Nielsen company said. Those numbers actually dipped in 2006 and 2007 when Carolina and Anaheim, two nontraditional hockey markets, won the Cup.