The waiting finally ended much to the delight of hardcore fans, owners, players, and probably the most thankful, all the people who work in the service industry who’ve taken a hit with the absence of hockey. It’s true, in a country that claims the game, no NHL leaves the land a bit quiet, almost too quiet.

The NHL didn’t win any friends with this work stoppage. Perhaps not fresh in the minds of fans, but certainly within memory, the notion of no NHL left many perplexed and annoyed. The question of course, is how many of the fans who swore to give up everything hockey will eventually come crawling back.

The league certainly will suffer a temporary setback, but it should remain just that, temporary. I envision a reality where in the shortrun of the new 2012-2013 season you’ll see packed arenas less the usual week markets where attendance will be even worse (Phoenix, Atalanta, Tampa, and Florida have the most to lose). After the first 3 weeks elapse I predict an overall decline in average attendance. Our own makeshift poll noted little change in intentions to watch, or more importantly, attend games. Rabid fans will be back, tepid fans will waffle. But what has changed from what we can see is the number of people who swore they’ll never put a dime in ticket sales. Sure, they may catch the odd game, but they won’t even accept free tickets.

That tune will likely change overtime, thankfully the current CBA lasts a lengthy 10 years.

FlamesForum made a point to do little coverage during the lockout in a form of protest. There’s only so much you can talk about after all (no clue how TSN and Sportsnet talked at length about nothing in particular for so long). But that’s all said and done and now it’s time for puck drop. The real question we’re all wondering is whether or not the off-season changes are enough to propel the Flames into a playoff position despite the fact everyone else in the NW Division added their own improvements as well.

Time will tell, and in this case time is everyone’s enemy. A sprint to the post-season means fans will find out within a month whether or not this team’s worth cheering for after losing close to half the season.