There’s mixed emotions locally over the potential return of the NHL.
Training camps are set to open today (unless the players voted against accepting the new deal Saturday) and the 48-game regular season – with no pre-season games – kicks off Jan. 19. This comes after a 113-day lockout ended Jan. 6, wiping out half the season.
Businesses such as Checkers Bar and Grill in the Best Western Plus Vernon Lodge, and The Green pub (formerly Sneakers) in the Village Green Hotel, are happy to have the NHL back.
“We are very excited as we like to consider ourselves one of the best places in town to watch sports,” said Checkers manager Pamela Lovig.
“It (lockout) has affected us somewhat, but we are still doing OK considering. I do believe we will get busier with the NHL.”
Added Ian Gibson, from The Green: “As a pub with a sports bar history, we are very happy to be back showing games for the public to enjoy, and look forward to even the shortened season as it will certainly bring out customers again, especially at cup time.”
The lockout affected businesses such as Sun Valley Source For Sports, which sells NHL merchandise.
“Jerseys have not sold since the lockout started,” said Sun Valley’s Mike Melbourne, who cancelled his entire NHL jersey order.
“Most of the sales happen for Christmas, so that business is gone. No matter how many games they play, it’s not going to be the same.
“I always like watching hockey, and it creates a little more excitement for our business, but the whole lockout kind of bothers me. If they paid me millions to play hockey I’d be happy with that. Wouldn’t you?”
Former NHL player Sandy Moger, now director of hockey operations for Greater Vernon Minor Hockey, said his job keeps him so busy to the point he doesn’t really care about the NHL – until the playoffs – and he hasn’t really missed it.
Moger, who played for the Vancouver Canucks, Boston Bruins and Los Angeles Kings, believes the lockout has hurt the game.
“Before, the NHL was at an all-time high for popularity, now they have to start over again,” said Moger.
“A lot of fans are not very happy about the lockout. It’s going to take awhile to get those fans back.”
The Morning Star, on its Facebook page, asked the public for their reaction to the NHL season starting in mid-January.
Answers, of course, varied.
“I say we should lock them out,” said Kathryn Katen Davis.
“I’m extremely happy they got the deal done,” wrote Tyce Koenig. “I just feel (NHL commissioner Gary) Bettman could have agreed a long time ago. All my hate goes towards the commish and not the players. I feel they have wanted to play since day one.”
“I’d rather be watching the New Zealand All Blacks play rugby any day,” said Steve Felix.
“While I am happy they were able to come to an agreement, my question is how much will this agreement cost the fans?” asked Paula Harned. “Ticket prices are already often too expensive for most people to afford. Will this new agreement simply make attending a live game simply out of reach for all but the elite one per cent?”
Devoted Toronto Maple Leafs fan Bob Wright – who said he has even seen his once favourite club win two Stanley Cup games (the Leafs haven’t been in the Cup final since winning it in 1967) – has had enough.
“But now, after the second lockout, I am thoroughly disgusted by the NHL and the players’ union, so much so, that I will never watch or support my Leafs or anything to do with the NHL,” said Wright. “Their greed and selfishness has ruined the game. All of my jerseys and memorabilia have been boxed and sent to recycling and the dump. Thanks for ruining a great sport you greedy bastards.”
An informal poll on The Morning Star Facebook page showed 65 per cent of respondents either didn’t care that the lockout was over or vowed not to watch NHL hockey anymore.