I know many will come flocking back, probably me included, but I sense a lot more anger this time around...and a lot more awareness for the non-million and billionaires who will only get screwed by this squabbling. Will those who are angry and sick of it all actually stay away when this is resolved? Who knows, but the guess here is probably not enough to make the NHL sweat.
Here's the point I'm reaching: I still love hockey and everything about it...it's a great great sport and can be incredibly exciting, as we all know. But man I'm starting to hate the NHL and everything about it.
Things are very different in the economy for one, so definitely people are going to take a lockout more personally. For another, I think people realized in 2004 the system needed to be changed, one way or another. It doesn't fundamentally need changing now, as much as the owners may whine it does (and yes the players should be making closer to 50% than 57%). Just about any team can compete, and win in the playoffs as this year's postseason proved. This time around there's less tangible reason for this nonsense to be happening. Plus you have Bettman - already hated for '95 and '04, AND Fehr - hated universally for his role in baseball's nonsense both involved.
For me personally, this is why I never describe myself as an 'NHL fan'. People that describe themselves as NHL fans (and the same is true of 'NFL fans, MLB fans, etc') will watch more than their team play and as such take it more personally when the sport's not there. I pay attention to the league certainly but I won't actively sit down and watch games besides the Devils. When their season's done, generally I'm done watching hockey other than bits and pieces of games maybe. My loyalty's to them, not the NHL. Maybe I'd feel differently if I thought the Devils were a main heavy with these lockouts but this year in particular, I think ownership has more pressing things to worry about than the players' HRR.