Poll: Does fan opinion matter when it comes to ending the NHL’s labor dispute?

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Whichever side is “right” in the NHL’s labor dispute, we know this much is true – unlike the lead-up to the 2004-05 lockout that canceled an entire season, the large majority of fans are on the players’ side of the dispute.

In a recent PHT poll, 82 percent of respondents said they support the NHLPA versus the owners.

The Globe and Mail’s Bruce Dowbiggin suggested public opinion was the reason the league presented its latest proposal to the players.

“[NHL commissioner Gary] Bettman and his bosses have discovered in the last two weeks that they’ve overplayed their hand with the public,” wrote Dowbiggin.

Of course, others have argued the NHL’s new proposal doesn’t mark any progression in the negotiations whatsoever.

Meanwhile, fans have been active online, forming anti-lockout pages on Facebook and starting Twitter feeds like @StopTheLock2012.

One fan is even pushing a “fan strike” if there’s no agreement by Sept. 15 when the current CBA expires.

All are admirable pursuits, but can fans really do anything to advance negotiations? Do the owners and players even care what the paying customer thinks, or do they just assume the fans will come back whenever the puck drops?

Bettman has said the NHL recovered from the last lockout “because we have the world’s greatest fans.”

Wrote Dowbiggin in another column, “The commish meant this as a compliment, of course. An honest reading of this beauty is more like: ‘If you fans weren’t such doormats, I might be worried.’”

NHLPA chief Donald Fehr sure seems to think public opinion is worth fighting for. Why else would the players keep hammering the “we’re not the ones talking lockout, that’s the owners” angle when speaking to the media? That may be true, but there’s no doubt the repetition is part of a planned PR strategy. One, we should add, that’s been quite successful so far.

OK, so let’s get to the poll question.