Shortness of breath, chest pains, and a state of dazed confusion were all side effects felt across the nation on September 15, 2004. No, not side effects of a heart attack, but rather the pangs of withdrawal felt by die-hard hockey fanatics after the National Hockey League postponed its 2004-2005 season indefinitely, due to the league’s unbalanced economic system and disputes between players and owners.[coach]
It’s crystal clear that the effect of the hockey lockout is negative for fans of professional teams, but it remains to be seen if that will be a different story for college teams. With the Spartan’s hockey season heating up fast enough to melt Munn Ice Arena, it’s likely that the drain of fans from national hockey could trickle into Spartan territory. “We don’t have the location of big teams like Boston or Denver,” Head Coach Rick Comley said, “but there could be a positive spin-off from all of this.”
The spin-off of new fans would most likely be satisfied, too, judging from the Spartans’ promising performance at the exhibition game on October 10. The team took a sweeping victory over Toronto with a final score of 7-2. Although the Canadian competition was below par in comparison to the men’s usual opponents, the game supplied fans, coaches, and players with a boost of confidence. “Sunday’s game was amazing,” Russian freshman Barb Hagberg said. “From what I saw, the guys are going to live up to and surpass any expectation put on them.”
Even though the Spartans’ hockey fan base seems lush, it’s too soon to say whether the lockout has actually increased ticket sales. “Sell-outs” are often announced prematurely for hockey tickets, shutting out any extra fans looking for a hockey fix and making it nearly impossible to know how many students actually wanted to buy tickets. “We always want more students in the building,” Comely said. “If the right word gets out there, we could get three, four, or five hundred more students. It would be tremendous.”
Some players on the team feel the increase in fans will be much smaller, if there’s any increase at all. “I don’t think the NHL lockout will have much effect on college hockey unless it continues to next year,” sophomore and Assistant Captain Drew Miller said. “[It just means] I’m not able to watch it on TV anymore.”
If the absence of professional role models is all Miller has to worry about, he should be just fine, considering as a freshman, he was drafted by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.
In truth, only time will tell if the NHL’s shocking announcement will be enough to draw a much larger fan base for the Spartans. But one thing’s for sure: the MSU hockey team is bound to get some more attention from the media, and they are prepared.
“They’re hungry to be out there, playing their first meaningful game,” Comley said. Hopefully, the fans will be starving to watch.

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