Agreed with a lot of what @haroldsnepsts wrote about parity...
I'm really conflicted on this issue. The 2012 lockout might have changed a lot of my views about the 2005 lockout, which I originally considered to be a "success". Now, I wonder if the perceived success of the post-lockout was really limited to three factors, which were either wholly unrelated to the lockout, or a self-fulfilling prophecy therefrom:
(1) The lockout carpet-bombed the popularity of the league so badly (and reset salaries, TV ratings, etc.) that the perceived "growth" from 2005-08 was really just the league naturally recovering where it was pre-lockout.
(2) The growth of HDTV coincided perfectly with the post-lockout era and while hockey is still arguably a "bad" TV sport, the argument has also been made that hockey benefits the most from SD --> HD versus all the "major" sports.
(3) A unique class of colorful and super-talented new faces for the league, such as Crosby, Malkin, and Ovechkin.
If you listen to fans/media from other markets, or even neutral sources (such as the Marek v. Wyshinski podcast), you get a real sense that the BEST years as a Wings fan were an absolute dark period for the league and its fans. When we think of Yzerman, Fedorov scoring 5 goals, Vladdy throwing checks, Hasek standing on his head, and 4th lines stuffed with Hall of Famers, the rest of the team thinks of the "dead puck" era, 2-1 double overtime games, and goalies with absurdly large equipment and jerseys.
Still, I LOVED the sport in that era. I loved watching other teams. Even though I hated the Avalanche, they were easily my 2nd favorite team to watch (and they got tons of coverage on "The Deuce", ESPN2). But I'll never be able to say if the NHL seemed to "big" to me because of what an exciting time that was for the Red Wings, or if the product really was that good.
I love to remind people the year before we blew the whole thing up to achieve "parity" and "cost certainty", the two teams in the Stanley Cup Finals were Calgary and Tampa Bay. I don't know that parity necessarily is good for the league. Baseball is doing pretty well right now (and has had almost two decades of labor peace), and I don't know if the product "works" the same if New York, Boston, and L.A. don't get to spend into oblivion.