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Ottawa’s Jason Spezza set the standard during the last lockout. Spezza, a Senators forward, played 80 games for Ottawa’s AHL franchise in Binghamton, N.Y. and had 32 goals and 85 assists.

“We’ve always been the second-best league in the world,” said Dolgon, who switched NHL affiliations from Anaheim to Tampa Bay after last season and has seen a bump in fan interest. “Now, we can be the second-best league with even greater talent playing in that league.”

If the lockout goes beyond the start of the AHL season, Dolgon said he expects attendance will be up across the board.

“I don’t know that we’re seeing NHL fans flocking to our ticket windows, but I do believe that our current fan base is more excited, and I think that’ll ultimately lead to more ticket sales,” said John Bitter, in his ninth year as ticket manager of the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals. “Hopefully, we’ll start to get newer fans on account of it. Our hardcore hockey fans are excited about this. I think they’d rather see the NHL play, but they’re not going to turn down the guys coming back, that’s for sure.”

The public perception is that there seems to be a pretty wide gap between the union and the owners, which could mean another prolonged stoppage as the search for a new CBA continues.

“Obviously, the question is: How long will the labor stoppage continue,” Andrews asked. “There’s still a month to go before the season is scheduled to open. So, it’s difficult to say how it’s going to play out.

“We’re certainly looking at it as an opportunity again for our league to benefit over the short term, and at the same time recognize that our sport is better off with the NHL playing. The NHL is the engine that drives our business. For us, any kind of short-term financial windfalls or brand exposure windfalls are just that — short-term.

“We’d be just as happy if it all gets resolved and the NHL begins the season on time.”

He’s not alone.