Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 01/24/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
The boycotts were threatened. The irate tweets were posted.
NHL fans were fed up with labour strife updates and they weren't coming back to the sport they loved once the lockout was lifted.
Except that they did. In most homes and arenas, they came in record numbers, unable to stay away for that first faceoff.
The fans partied in Nashville, Tenn., where $1 hot dogs helped woo Predators fans back to Bridgestone Arena.
In Ohio, the Columbus Blue Jackets came on the ice for warmups wearing jerseys numbered 1 with "Thank You Fans" printed where the player's name is. The jerseys were then given to fans.
In Philadelphia, a city that hasn't sniffed a Stanley Cup parade since 1975, a record 19,994 fans showed up for the season opener against Pittsburgh. That came on the heels of more than 2,000 fans at their practice facility for the first day of training camp and another 15,000 showed up for a free, open practice at the Wells Fargo Center.
Across the state in Pittsburgh, Consol Energy Center was packed during a free intrasquad exhibition last week, with a couple of thousand fans turned away at the door. Just to make sure the fans will stay satiated -- as if watching Sidney Crosby isn't enough -- the Penguins are giving those in attendance during the first four home games vouchers for free food and dropping prices on team merchandise by 50 per cent.
Yes, there's a good deal to be found in the NHL, and it's not just the collective bargaining agreement. It's slashed prices and freebies all offered to hockey-starved fans as a way of saying thanks for sticking by the sport over the 113-day lockout.
Crosby, the league's most famous player, wasn't surprised at how fans stuffed arenas around the NHL.
"I think it's great to see that we're still getting the turnout that we're getting," he said.
Can't get a ticket? No worries. There's always the comfort of watching on the big screen TV. While the NHL will never attract the oversized ratings of the NFL or other marquee sports, the numbers from the first few days of action show fans will plop down on the sofa and watch on high definition just as much as from high in the upper deck.
NBC's broadcast Saturday earned the league's most-watched game for a non-Winter Classic in 14 years. It was regional coverage of the Chicago Blackhawks defeating the Stanley Cup-champion Los Angeles Kings, 5-2, and Pittsburgh's 3-1 victory over Philadelphia. All told, 2.77 million viewers tuned in.
Eight markets set local ratings records or milestones for regular-season coverage -- not counting Winter Classics -- that aired either on NBC or NBC Sports Network from Saturday to Tuesday.
"It's good to talk about something else besides the lockout and actually talk about the game," Flyers captain Claude Giroux said. "It's obviously a pretty good feeling out there having the fans. They are unbelievable."
-- The Associated Press
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 24, 2013 D2
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
AP Source: Boston Bruins place Simon Gagne on waivers
Ducks shut out Canucks 4-0
Gaudreau scores 2 as Flames top Sabres 4-1
Smith scores in OT, Predators beat Avalanche 4-3
Canadiens recall Dumont from Bulldogs
Red Wings beat Panthers 5-4 for 6th straight victory
Halak, Islanders beat rival Rangers again, 4-1
Simmonds gets winner in SO as Flyers beat Coyotes 4-3
Atkinson, Tyutin lead Blue Jackets past Capitals 4-3
Crosby-less Penguins rally for 5-3 win over Winnipeg
Son: Howe's recovery "unbelievable"
Devils need to climb big hill to avoid another bad year
Former Oilers forward Dvorak retires
LA Kings' Mike Richards clears waivers, assigned to AHL
Sharks in 'dogfight' to secure playoff berth
Goaltender Martin Brodeur to retire
Back to Hiller versus Ramo in Flames net
Slow-starting Stars return from break with eye on playoffs
Flyers F Rinaldo suspended for 8 games by NHL
Richards waived by champion Los Angeles Kings
Defenceman Erik Johnson out 3-to-8 weeks with knee injury
Crosby out at least 1 game, Letang could return Tuesday
Predators eager to build on their best start without Rinne
Isles' top-line forward Okposo out 6 to 8 weeks
Surprising Jets aiming to land in playoffs
Wild send Kuemper on AHL conditioning assignment
Phaneuf out week-to-week with injury
Evidence complete in Guy Lafleur civil trial
Capitals among East contenders; West race too tight to call
Sabres suspend Zadorov for missing practice
Columbus forward Johansen named first star
Kings place Mike Richards on waivers
Jackets goalie Bobrovsky out 4-6 weeks with groin injury
Offense rules as Tavares scores 4 in Team Toews' 17-12 win
NHL pitches a no-hitter
Coyotes star had emergency surgery at HSC
All-Star Game Notebook
NHL all-star game
Johansen gets hometown nod in NHL All-Star game MVP vote