Wednesday, January 11, 2006

NHL ON ITS SUMMIT AFTER THE LOST SEASON

The new National Hockey League is fondly appreciated by the fans. Halfway into the 2005-06 season, the NHL is enjoying unparalleled success. Expected to struggle with attendance after shutting the game down for a year with a controversial and ugly lockout, most NHL owners are enjoying strong display of their teams at the turn of the season. The league was most successful in November in the 88-year history of the league, drawing an average of 16,818 fans per game for the 199 contests that month. The NHL also enjoyed a excellence in the first month of the season in October as fans flocked to hold close both the new, more competitive economic system that is the soul of the sport, as well as a more forceful, offense-heavy creation on the ice. 24 of the 30 NHL clubs are either at level or ahead of their attendance pace the last campaign before the lockout. Pittsburgh leads the way with a 36-percent bang, followed by the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning (24 percent), the Calgary Flames (21 percent), the Boston Bruins (21 percent) and the Carolina Hurricanes (19 percent). The local markets have also spruced up with television ratings. The critics of the league forecasted that it would take years, if ever, before the league could undo the damage from the full-season work stoppage in order to get orchestrated owner-friendly new collective bargaining agreement. It was obvious also for the critics to think like this since three other major professional team sports in North America — baseball, football, basketball — all initially struggled when they returned from various work stoppages in the past two decades. On the contrary NHL was cautious, but optimistic, about fan response as this season approached. It has been anticipated that the league will surpass its forecast of $1.8 billion in revenue this year, which means that the $39 million salary cap per team will stay the same or climb a little bit. Many believed the Predators would struggle to survive the lockout because the team's fan base, after just six NHL seasons, but today, the Predators are competing in every area. On the ice, they are among the league's top teams. Historically, the NHL has experienced flow in attendance after the Christmas season, and surprisingly the revival version of NHL could get even better as the season progresses.

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