Which is to say that hockey fans did not boycott a damn thing when NHL practices started up yesterday and today. Instead, they came out in droves. All the boycott suggestions – and there were plenty of them – were pretty hilarious in retrospect. And the fact that I once thought, even for a second, that attendance would be badly hurt by the lockout is too.

Here’s how John Gonzalez described the situation in Philly yesterday:

It was madness. People stood shoulder to shoulder, their hockey sweaters bleeding into each other to form a seamless orange and black tableau that ringed the rink. That was more than an hour before the Flyers took the ice.

On an otherwise sleepy, foggy, Sunday morning, countless fans filled the Skate Zone to watch the Flyers open training camp. One of the employees at the front desk said the parking lots in the front, side and back of the building were full by 9:30 a.m. Several longtime beat reporters swore it was the biggest turnout they’d ever seen.

It wasn’t hyperbole. There were so many people wedged around the rink that they spilled out into the lobby area and had to stand on their toes to get a glimpse of their team from a distance. At one point, they stopped letting people inside because it was too crowded. It was essentially the sports equivalent of a popular nightclub. The only things missing were a bouncer and a red velvet rope at the entrance.

And how were things in Missouri? From BJ Rains of Fox Sports Midwest:

It was 10:42 a.m. Sunday when hockey officially returned to the Scottrade Center. And there was quite the crowd to welcome it back.

With the NHL lockout in the rear view mirror and the first regular season game just six days away, the reigning Central Division Champion St. Louis Blues opened training camp with a 90-minute practice in front of an energetic 5,500 fans at their home rink.

And they couldn’t have been more surprised by the turnout.

“I’ve never seen anything like that for a practice,” said captain David Backes.

Maybe it wasn’t so good in Tampa Bay? From Mike Corcoran of Sports Talk Florida:

The Lightning held fanfest to coincide with the opening of training camp Sunday, with an announced crowd of 5,500 in attendance. Most of Sunday’s practice was made up of practicing break out plays, positioning skills, and of course, lots of conditioning. It sounds like there will be more scrimmages to get back to near game shape as camp now shifts south to Estero over the next four days.

All around the NHL, thousand and thousand of fans turned up to watch the first day of practice. We’re the beaten dog of sports fans, and we’re just as blindly loyal. We’ve taken our licks the last few months, and it seems most are just happy to get back to the game they love.

…Walk? Walk, boy?

And we’re right back in.

Comments (18)

  1. We all miss hockey, some of us just have a little more respect for ourselves and none for the NHL to be a sheep. And sorry for those that were there and take offense at that. The lockout was a joke, and I refuse to go running back when there is a nice tv in a warm home I can be watching it on. My money is staying right where it’s at for a nice long time.

    • So watching the commercials of sponsors of the NHL is your way of showing them you’re not a sheep? OK then, I think they’re good with that.

      • Angie pays the cable company, not the nhl, so its the best some people can do if they still want to watch hockey isint it Mr.Herpies

        herbie* sorry

    • Are you watching center ice from up on your high horse?

      • Nope I’m not. I’ll just be sticking to Sharks games and not watching the other games. And I’ll be going to the local ECHL games. So I still get my live hockey fix. The NHL can shove it this season. Enjoy my high horse just fine thank you.

  2. I don’t blame the players for the lockout. I’ve tried to understand “they’re both equally to blame!” argument but honestly, I don’t buy it.

    And I’ll be at the Bruins’ black-and-gold scrimmage Tuesday night. But I won’t be paying the ridiculous parking fees that go into Jacobs’ pocket. I’ll park a mile away and walk.

  3. Longtime Rangers season ticket holder here. Yes, I miss hockey terribly. No, I’m not giving up my tickets. Yes, I’m hoping to see a meaningful playoff run this spring/summer. But I can’t live with myself if I just go running back this time…..and don’t understand how people can do that. So, I’m not going to the first five home games, will not be renewing my Gamecenter subscription (and heaven help the person I get on the phone if they have the gall to put through an automatic renewal), will not tweet nor blog about the sport this year, and will not spend a penny on merchandise. I know none of that will mean much of anything to anyone….but it will help me look at myself in the mirror in the morning!

    • Yet you’re here, reading about and commenting on hockey. Wish I lived near New York so I could have those tickets you undoubtedly already bought.

      • Well no, I’m actually reading and commenting about fans falling back into line, not about hockey. We wouldn’t have these lockouts if the fans took meaningful action. (And I’m not excusing myself, as I’m only taking token steps in an attempt to clear my own mind.)

  4. I love hockey first. NHL is simply an available venue to watch the best players in the world. I’ll be back to the NHL, but, there are always ways to enjoy watching the best players and keep more of my money in my pocket. That minor act of keeping more of my money is my simple way of rebelling against the lockout.

  5. i still dont understand why people are so angry about having been denied entertainment. unless you were directly impacted by the lockout, i.e. lost a job or income, who cares?

    • Dude, people are angry because we work hard to make a living and have enough left over to pay for entertainment, while most of these freaking assholes make more money in a single year that most of us will make in a lifetime, and were arguing over who gets the scraps left over on the plate.

  6. See, I get the feeling that most fans don’t blame the players, and are just happy to have hockey back. For me as a Blues fan, at least two of our players (David Backes, Andy McDonald) were involved in the negotiations, trying to solve the lockout. Whether or not it would actually have happened, the NHLPA did maintain that they were willing to play the season under the old CBA while negotiating a new one. It was a lockout, not a strike-once it began, I don’t blame the players for holding out for the best deal they could get; the league was being ridiculous. I’m not going to hold my players accountable for this mess, I’m going to support my team. However, I’m planning to not spend any money on the NHL this year (tempting as that GameCenter Live discount is). That’s my “boycott”-keeping support from the league that took hockey away, not the players who were actively involved in trying to bring it back.

  7. lol, people are saying they cant live with themselves.. wow..you’d think someone actually wronged fans, everyone is entitled to fight for their right to have a good workplace, just because they make an onscene amount of money doesnt mean they dont have rights.. i work 2 jobs, both of which were in labour disputes at the same time.. dont see people boycotting the hospital.. typing in the dark is a terrible idea.. not fixing my spelling mistakes lol

    • And one of those job is clearly not a sports writer on the topic of left over lock out angst.

      If one of your two jobs being involved in the healthcare system having a labor dispute, you clearly arent letting down your fans, instead you are letting down people in need of care. People who dont have the choice to boycott.

      The issue with the lockout is that both sides thanks the fans and preach unrelenting love for the fans. I mean, every year they dedicate the cup FOR THE FANS. So by lock out, that is clearly a contradiction of everything said by both parties. This is why people are pissed. They promise us a great sport every year, then take more than half of it away.

      Also, the only way hockey is like healthcare is that both cost us an insane amount of money and we all still end up shitting the bed.

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