A new survey of Manitobans’ sentiments about the NHL lockout done by Winnipeg-based Prairie Research Associates shows only three per cent even miss the games, something league marketing people might find will come back to haunt them.
Among the 800 adult Manitobans surveyed there was an exact split in the apportioning of blame between owners and players.
"We were surprised that the people have the blame evenly split," said PRA’s senior research manager Nicholas Borodenko. "We thought the sentiment would be more pro-players in Manitoba but that is not the case."
The survey, which Borodenko believes may be the first one conducted on the lockout, showed 41 per cent thought both sides were equally to blame, 21 per cent blame the NHL team owners and 21 per cent blame the players.
The rest don’t care.
The survey was done between Dec. 5 and Dec. 18 and is considered accurate to within 3.5 percentage points plus or minus 19 times out of 20.
Borodenko believes there was nothing to suggest the health of the Winnipeg Jets franchise was vulnerable, but he said the peripheral fans are the ones who might be hard to win back.
Borodenko said he and his colleagues at PRA were surprised only 50 per cent of the respondents referred to themselves as hockey fans.
"I think if we had done the survey last year at this time, with the games on, it would have been higher, " he said.
The fact 43 per cent said they were indifferent about the lockout may be attributed to something Borodenko referred to as learned helplessness.
"People are giving up," he said. "They know there is nothing they can do."
Of those who said they are hockey fans, there was little-to-no positive sentiment about the situation — 39 per cent said they feel angry, upset and disgusted; 14 per cent said it is greedy (on the part of both sides); 13 per cent are disappointed; and 24 per cent said they are so frustrated that they no longer care and it’s not affecting them.
"All of that is bad for the NHL in terms of bringing fans back to the game once the dispute is resolved," he said.
The Jets’ owners may be glad to learn the survey indicated about 60 per cent have not consciously redirected the money they would be spending on the NHL and Jets games to other entertainment options.
The survey showed 13 per cent spent money on various other entertainment (not including other professional sports), six per cent spent it on Christmas, five per cent paid bills, four per cent took a vacation or travelled, and four per cent spent it on other professional sports.