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NHL's future buoyed by die-hard fanbase

Updated: February 8, 2005, 1:16 PM ET
By Darren Rovell | ESPN.com

The National Hockey League's biggest weakness during labor peace could be its greatest strength once a new collective bargaining agreement is reached.

Often characterized -- and criticized -- as a niche sport with largely regional appeal, the NHL is less likely to suffer at the box office after the lockout because of its higher ratio of hard-core fans to casual fans than other major professional sports.

After the last lockout shortened the 1994-95 NHL season to 48 games, the league ...

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