PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Flyers owner Ed Snider had a simple message on the day the NHL lockout ended:
Welcome back, NHL.
Welcome back, NHL fans.
Lost in the squabble between the league and players over the 113-day labor dispute was how the hardcore fans were losing interest with each messy board room update from an idle sport. Keeping the faith turned into planning boycotts. The Winter Classic gave way to the winter doldrums for even the most passionate fans in hockey-mad markets.
One of the questions that arises now, of course, and after any sort of stoppage for that matter, is will the fans come back? This is the third labor dispute in Commissioner Gary Bettman's tenure, and though the fans returned in the past, the jury is out this time.