The NHL is entering into its last season under the current collective bargaining agreement. The NBA has currently locked out its own players. This is an amazing opportunity for the NHL to grow the game and expand to an audience that doesn't know what they are missing. I have a feeling that the NBA situation will not resolve itself quickly leaving many people in "non-traditional hockey markets". The NHL on ice quality is almost as high as its ever been and is continuing to move in the right direction. Franchises such as the ones that exist in Florida can benefit from not having audiences flock to the greatest jokes on court in the Miami Heat. In a gate driven league, the NHL can benefit from teams in the same markets as NBA teams. However, the greatest benefit to the NHL will be the benefits in television. The NHL does not have a great TV deal, but will get infinitely more exposure this coming year as the only sport to watch except on Sundays.
Having stated the great benefits of the NBA lockout, the NHL is in its last CBA year. Gary Betman cannot afford to take a step backwards with this league by having a work stoppage of their own. The NHL needs to be able to build on this year and hold onto those larger audiences. Another lockout in the NHL would be a major shot in the foot for a league that has grappled and clawed to be considered a major sport in the United States. A work stoppage would ruin all of that work and all that could be accomplished in the next year. The NHL would essentially be repaying the NBA with their own stoppage. It would have to be the last straw for Gary Bettman as comissioner. It's just too bad that the NFL didn't miss major time too; the NHL would be the only sport to watch in North America except the NHL, CFL and MLS. Could you imagine an America with no American sports? So close.