An examination of NHL fans' reactions to the cancelled 2004-2005 season
MetadataShow full item record
AN EXAMINATION OF NHL FANS' REACTIONS TO THE CANCELLED 2004- 2005 SEASON Chad Asselstine Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, Brock University Gary Bettman, the Commissioner of the National Hockey League (NHL) stepped in front of the worldwide media on February 16, 2005 to announce that there would be no NHL games played during the 2004-2005 season. Two sides were prominent during the labour dispute; the NHL owners and the NHLP A, however a third side that became the forgotten party was the fans (NHLF A, 2005). The fans are the consumers of the NHL and all the brands associated with its franchises, they are the people who provide the revenues that allow owners to pay the players' salaries. The present study is situated within the sport marketing framework, particularly within the fan loyalty literature to provide an understanding of the impact of the 2004- 2005 lockout on the forgotten party, NHL fans. This study examines 16 fans' experiences in four stages: becoming a fan of the NHL, being a fan prior to the lockout, being a fan during the lockout including their anticipated reaction to the return of the NHL, and their actual reaction to the return of the NHL. Data was collected using face-to-face interviews with each ofthe participants, resulting in 16 fans' stories of how the lockout impacted them specifically. Through analysis of the data themes began to emerge including the fans' understanding that there was a need to restructure game play, the business operations of the NHL, a desire for service recovery strategies which would exceed fans' expectations, 4 and the desire for alternative forms of consumption including alternative hockey leagues as well as the growing popularity of poker playing. The study summarizes the effects that the NHL lockout had on the relationship between 16 individual fan~ and their favourite teams, and concludes with Suggestions for Future Research and Implications for Sport Marketers that emerged from this unique case in the history of North American professional sport.