One question I haven’t seen any ask, and certainly no one has an answer for is how badly a lockout will affect not direct revenue, but the secondary information sources, and total fan engagement. The very biggest sites and sources will still be around, mostly. But will they still be in the same form? Will a missed season see experienced, knowledgeable journalists reassigned permanently to other sources?
David Pollock has covered the San Jose Sharks since they came into existence. He’s the voice of the team, even over the teams official mouthpieces. He’s nationally respected, and he knows the players, organization and league. What if he’s assigned elsewhere come January because Mercury News can’t justify someone paid a full time salary to report that league talks are going no where once a week? That’s a team that is tucked in tight with two other NHL teams in a state where hockey comes in after the other big three, and likely surfing, extreme sports, and MMA.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have retooled their team, giving them one of the most interesting defensive units in the entire NHL. Jack Johnson, James Wisniewski, Nikita Nikitin, and the just drafted Ryan Murray are going to be involved in some exciting hockey in the future. Will the excitement be as widespread in October of 2013? Will the bloggers who have sprung up to cover the team over the last few years of futility maintain their passion over the second lockout in seven years? Two years of lockout to ten years of play is hardly something that motivates a fanbase.
Only the most casual of fans rely on the team or league sites as their primary source of news. The days of sports leagues controlling news that tightly are dead and gone. Even the major news papers and television stations don’t own the fanbases anymore. Neutral news like Yahoo, and Score, or sports specific sites like HockeyThisWeek or Hockey Independent rule the day. Right behind them are the stand alone bloggers, those linked by advertising driven platforms like Bloguin or who have a self managed site.
Just like fantasy hockey, each blog, each Twitter account, each Facebook group, and every last Google+ profile serve the purpose of keeping fans engaged with the NHL. Regardless of who you blame for the lockout, the NHL owners, the NHLPA, or the figureheads of either, some of these secondary sources will cease to exist with a long lockout. Others will suffer a serious degradation of quality. This serves no one. Well run teams use these secondary news sources to keep fans engaged, and mainstream media on their toes.
The bottom line is that every fantasy hockey league slot not filled, every blog that stops covering the NHL, and every knowledgeable person permanently reassigned and replaced, if at all, by someone who doesn’t understand the league at the gut level is a loss that shouldn’t happen.