I'm excited to see hockey start up again. With the new rules and salary cap I think the teams are going to be much more balanced and the games will be just that more exciting.
However, I feel that there will be a drop off in viewership initially. It could be just a couple months or a couple years. If the NHL is able to get ESPN or another high profile neetwork I feel that the viewership decline will be just a few months but if they get a lesser known cable channel (what is it, great outdoors or something) then it will probably take a few years to recover.