“We don’t care” seems to be the three little words on the lips of most Canadians these days when it comes to the NHL lockout.
A poll in The Calgary Herald finds 58 per cent of Canadians have lost interest in the ongoing dispute and could care less if there ever is a resolution.
Results in Alberta were only slightly less apathetic at 55 per cent, with 15 per cent of fans optimistic there could soon be an end to all of the drama.
It’s tough news for the NHL given those numbers were around 36 per cent at the beginning of September.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is the latest to weigh in the debate and says he can see both sides of the argument.
In an interview with French language station TVA, Harper says he’s saddened and fears our national sport may be in peril.
The Prime Minister is turning to junior hockey and the upcoming World Juniors in Russia at the end of the month to fill the void.
He adds hockey is a business and depriving fans of a full season twice in eight years isn’t good for the NHL.
But he appears to be in the minority.
“Fans are the biggest victim in this whole thing,” says Sportsnet 960 – The Fan’s Dean Molberg. “Every fan that I’ve talked to that says they’re not going back to the rink, I hope they hold to that because they deserve better than this.”
Looking back on the last 14 weeks, Molberg is surprised the lockout’s lasted this long.
“At the end of the day, the NHL is a ticket-driven league and the fans have become awful scapegoats in this whole thing,” he adds.
“Apathy is certainly the word of the day in Canada but I think people are full of it,” says Jack FM morning show co-host and Calgary Sun sports columnist Eric Francis. “When the puck drops again in hockey, people in Canada will return in droves and if you don’t want your tickets, that’s fine. Somebody else will snatch them up.”
“It’ll take a while, there will be a cooling-off period where people are still a little bit angry but in Canada not one seat will remain empty when these guys come back,” he tells 660News.
Both Molberg and Francis wonder what the league will do when it’s back to business as usual to appeal to that growing base of disgruntled die-hards.
“I don’t know what the answer is, they will have to do something because fans are angry,” says Molberg. “And I think in a lot of markets, like Calgary, they will come back. If not immediately, then in time.”
The labour dispute has already resulted in the cancellation of 526 regular-season games through December 30th.
It was 95 years ago Wednesday, on December 19, 1917, the first-ever NHL games took place.
All four teams played, with the Montreal Canadiens hosting the Toronto Arenas and the Ottawa Senators at home against the Montreal Wanderers.
The league had been established three weeks before in Montreal.
Quebec was also granted a franchise, but it did not operate in the first season.