In a previous post, Red Banyan Group gave its crisis PR assessment of the National Hockey League (NHL) lockout. After much back-and-forth the NHL and National Hockey League Players’ Association (NHLPA) finally came to a compromise and the season is underway. But now NHL faces another serious PR challenge. After a 113-day lockout, will discouraged fans show up and tune in this year?

Despite an apparent apathy for fans during the lockout, it appears that the NHL has recognized the need to win back its followers.  The league is offering its all-access GameCenter Live app, which includes video access to games, at a discounted price.

NHL teams and arenas are also putting forward fan incentives such as discounted merchandise, free parking, food deals and ticket promotions. In some locations, franchises have even opened their team practices to the public to give hockey-starved fans a glimpse of the action.

But will these fleeting charms be enough to permanently sustain a strong fan base? Surveys and commentary compiled by news organizations show that a full boycott will almost certainly not occur, though some fans have committed to only watching free televised games and refuse to contribute any funds to the NHL.

To avoid any further damage and to generate long-term goodwill, it is critical that the NHL makes sure its fans feel valued. While introductory promotions are a good start, the league must continue its efforts throughout the course of the year and even into next season to leave a lasting impression. The NHL should also make itself highly accessible to rebuild credibility and empower fans by creating an outlet for their input.

The season was put into a deep freeze for far too long, but thankfully the players are back on the ice, which is where they belong.