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02-11-2005, 10:35 AM
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Lockout will test depth of owners' pockets

ESPN's sports business writer

Even before the National Hockey League lockout began on Sept. 16, commissioner Gary Bettman and many team executives have maintained they will lose less money if they don't play at all in 2004-05 than they would playing under the old collective bargaining agreement.

But they'd still lose money.

Pile on the effects of the lockout -- a decline in season-ticket sales, the loss of advertising, not to mention fan apathy and potential attrition -- and the next question becomes: If the NHL doesn't play at all in 2004-05, and possibly into 2005-06, what will happen to those teams?

Ask sports industry bankers, economists and lawyers, and the answers can range greatly: From team bankruptcies to league-imposed contraction to perhaps nothing at all.

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