With the NHL lockout more than a month old and the rhetoric between the league and the players' association ramping up, the possibility of an 82-game season dwindles with each passing day.
While the two sides battle over how to divide up the hockey-related revenue, the frustration of the fans grows with some uttering the words that no one wants to hear, "If they cancel the season, I'm not coming back."
Having said that, league revenues reportedly grew more than $1 billion since the last lockout so not all the fans stayed away after the cancelled 2004-05 season. But they didn't return to the same game. The NHL and NHLPA decided to make some changes to improve the game and entice existing fans to return and some new ones to catch on.
To name a few, the clutching and grabbing was penalized more often and the red line was removed to speed up the game, shootouts were introduced to ensure no games ended in a tie, a salary cap was introduced in hopes of closing the gap between the haves and have-nots and every team had a chance in the draft lottery to determine who would select can't-miss prospect Sidney Crosby.
While those changes improved the product to varying degrees, what would it take to bring you back this time around?
The return of the Jets to Winnipeg was a big story last season, bringing the number of Canadian teams to seven, so would the promise of one or two more Canadian expansion teams do the trick? Quebec City and Markham, Ontario (north of Toronto) appear to be two markets that could be ready to welcome teams in the near future.
Maybe a financial olive branch would influence you. While the prospect of reduced ticket prices seems improbable, would it soften the blow if teams offered up a discount on snacks and/or souvenirs during the season or the number of giveaways were increased as part of the in-house experience?
What if the league came back with a rule change on fighting? Recently, the Ontario Hockey League adopted a rule that will see players suspended if they engage in more than 10 fights. However, it could be construed as a step toward eliminating fighting from the game, something the players have shown they are steadfastly against.
Or maybe you are at your wit's end and there is nothing that will bring you back this time.
Let's hope the two sides come to an agreement and play a full 82-game season, but if they don't, what would it take to bring you back this time around?
It's Your! Call.