Even if the season is lost, the owners will still have other investments to fall back on, star players will go to Europe, star rookies will go to the AHL or Junior.
The brand will be destroyed and the two sides continued lack of contempt for the fan will leave a lot of the casual variety turned off. The NHL is the third major sport at best in the majority of American markets. The longer they are gone, the more those markets with focus on their NBA/MLB/NFL teams and there goes market share. Canadian fans will come back in droves because it's "our sport."
One benefit out of watching last night's Sportsnet coverage was seeing PK Subban in studio, dressed in a suit, elegantly skating around the dinosaur Nick Kypreos in a debate. As much as I hate Kypreos on my own, this just showed how electric Subban could be and how much Kypreos needs to go.