The NHL might be feeling the pressure from fans eager to see an end to the players lockout, but experts say the pressure behind the scenes they're already getting from corporate sponsors is more likely to break the logjam.

Brian Cooper, president of S&E Sponsorship Group, told the CBC's Lang & O'Leary Exchange recently that the NHL's corporate sponsors are feeling the lack of games on their bottom lines, and letting the league know about it.

When it revealed its quarterly results recently, brewer Molson-Coors blamed disappointing beer sales in part on the lockout, and threatened to seek "financial compensation" from the league.

Financial impact

Cooper says his firm's clients — which include major names like Scotiabank, Sport Chek and Canadian Tire — are feeling the pinch. "They all have products," he said.

"When there's hockey, and excitement about hockey, more equipment is going out the doors," at Canadian Tire, he said.

"And when there's no hockey, obviously nobody's looking to get a NHL-branded loyalty card," from Scotiabank, he added.

Because of the nature of their contracts, Cooper doubts any corporate sponsors would be able to successfully sue the NHL for compensation. But the damage to the league financially could be immeasurable.

"Any brand with this much negative light shone on it gets hurt," he said. "People are looking for alternatives to spend their dollars."

Fans may be the innocent victims in a dispute between millionaire players and billionaire owners, but ultimately, the thing that's likely to end everything is dollars and cents.

"The tipping point is coming," he said.

Click the player above to watch the complete interview, or click here to watch it in a new window.