What lockout? Fans pack NHL arenas on opening night

When the NHL returned after the lockout that resulted in the cancellation of the 2004-05 season, fans responded by setting a new league attendance record. Which was pretty impressive.

There was a concern the league was pressing its luck with fans this season by putting them through yet another lockout, one that cost us half of the 2012-13 season and added to the NHL's impressive resume of games missed due to labor strife. 

Would fans be as forgiving this time around? Would they still flock back to arenas? Or would all of those boycotts that were threatened actually take place?

Based on opening night attendance around the NHL the answers to the questions are yes, most definitely yes, and absolutely not.

Here's a quick look at the attendance figures (and what percentage of capacity each home team played to) from opening night:

Opening Night Attendance
Home Team Attendance Percentage
Philadelphia 19,994 102.5
Los Angeles 18,545 102.4
Florida 19,688 102.3
Minnesota 19,298 102.0
Vancouver 18,890 100.4
Winnipeg 15,004 100.2
Boston 17,565 100.2
Montreal 21,273 100.0
St. Louis 20,035 100.0
Dallas 18,532 100.0
Nashville 17,113 100.0
New York Islanders 16,170 99.2
Tampa Bay 19,204 97.3

Yup. Fans were really ticked off about that lockout.

It's just one night, and it's a long way to go, but I don't expect fans to stay away. And these numbers shouldn't be a surprise based on what we saw over the past couple of weeks in terms of season ticket sales across the league, not to mention the crazy crowds that showed up in places like Pittsburgh, Boston, Montreal, Winnipeg, Philadelphia and elsewhere for scrimmages and glorified practices.

Heck, the Penguins not only packed the Consol Energy Center on Wednesday night for an intrasquad scrimmage (they had to turn fans away because too many people showed up) it was televised on local TV and drew better ratings than the average Pittsburgh Pirates regular season game.

Hockey fans will be back because they want hockey at its highest level. And with all due respect to the American Hockey League, the ECHL and the various other pro leagues around North America, the NHL is what fans want. And all the lockouts in the world aren't going to keep them away.

Somewhere, Gary Bettman is smiling, rubbing his hands together, and softly whispering "Excellent."

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

CBS Sports Writer

Adam Gretz has been writing about the NHL and taking an analytical approach to the game since the start of the 2008 season. A member of the PHWA since 2015, he has spent more than three years covering... Full Bio

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