The NHL and its players' union agreed to the framework of a new collective bargaining agreement early Sunday morning that is expected to be ratified by both owners and players this week. The deal will salvage either a 48-game or 50-game schedule after a nearly four month lockout. The pact is expected to last 10 years and split revenues 50-50 between owners and players, similar to the CBAs in the NFL and NBA. The players are set to return to the ice, but will NHL fans come back as well?
The 2004-05 NHL lockout that wiped out an entire season did not keep fans away when hockey returned in October 2005. In fact, it was the exact opposite in many cases. Attendance increased for the majority of teams with nine teams experiencing a bump of at least 5% compared to the 2003-04 season. The Pittsburgh Penguins led the way with a 33% gain, as recent top draft picks Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin made their Pens' debut. Attendance for the Carolina Hurricanes rose 26% thanks to the team's Southeast Division crown and first Stanley Cup title.