By Brad Hubbard | @bradhubbard

With the 2nd round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs rapidly approaching we thought it would be a good time to look and see if the fans came back to the NHL. There was lot of concern in January when the lockout shortened season got underway that the fans would not return but it appears that those fears where all for not.

Many teams enticed fans to return with special promotions as we pointed out in a post earlier this year. Now we have some actual numbers to back up the consensus out there that hockey really is back, especially locally. According to Sports Media Watch some big hockey towns like Pittsburgh, Boston, Chicago, and New York have seen fans return to their TV’s in droves. NBC Sports Network has also seen an increase in it’s ratings with seven of the eight highest rated games coming this season.

Attendance appears to not have suffered as it was once feared. While nothing can make up for the business that was lost last fall when the lockout was in full swing, fans do appear to have returned.

It’s not all wine and roses however. NBC has seen a decline and surprisingly enough the Boston Bruins 1st round playoff battle against the Toronto Maple Leafs is down in the ratings compared to a year ago. That’s right, the Bruins TV partner NESN has seen a decline in the TV ratings.

There is still a long way to go for the NHL. The Phoenix Coyotes are still run by the league, Vancouver and Montreal were knocked out in the 1st round of the playoffs (not much the league can do about that though) and there is now the extraordinary challenge of putting on a hockey game outside in LA.

That’s right, the LA Kings will play the Anaheim Ducks outside at Dodger stadium next January. It’s one of several outdoor games planned for next season in the newly created Stadium Series. These stadium games do well ratings wise and attendance wise. It’s another way the NHL is trying to get fans back to hockey. Although, as we pointed out earlier, hockey fans apparently haven’t gone anywhere.

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