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NHL Will Have to Sweet-Talk Fans

Rafal Gerszak/For The Globe and Mail

There will be pain.

That is the message from top marketing and sponsorship executives who are following the NHL lockout and looking to its conclusion – whether that is a shortened season starting in January, or another full year is wiped out.

Fans are fed up. Sponsors are fed up, too.

And for the first time, the league could feel some significant blowback when it attempts to relaunch from its third prolonged work stoppage in just 18 years.

“Without a doubt,” S&E Sponsorship Group president Brian Cooper said, when asked about the potential for a negative response from NHL fans and sponsors. “It’s inevitable for any brand taken off the shelf. But not only taken off the shelf, one that has some ambiguous cloud of ...

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