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Starved for hockey

Fans have been feeling the pain of the lockout for the past 113 days, but so too have businesses that rely on the National Hockey League for revenue.

The lockout came to a conclusion on Sunday when both sides tentatively agreed to the terms of a new collective bargaining agreement. The deal now has to be ratified.

Bars and jersey stores have been through a down few months, in terms of sales and patrons, while the owners locked out the players, cancelling 625 games. And Josh Mizurek, manager at Jersey City in Bower Place Shopping Centre, said he has heard from numerous customers about their disgust with the situation.

“I bet you I’m seeing four to five people a day come in and even if the NHL comes back, they say they’re not buying anything,” said Mizurek.

“Just completely boycotting the sport. Where last year, everybody was looking, everybody loved their sport. This year, I had some regular customers who were huge NHL fans who refused to buy anything.”

While in the immediate future, Mizurek has felt the pain of the lockout, he hopes as the games start the fans come out of the woodwork.

“I think there will be quite a bit of angry fans who just choose to ignore it for the rest of this season at least.”

But the frustration with the lockout still permeates through many corners of NHL fandom.

“I know one person who said, however many games they make us miss he would boycott that many.”

But some fans are excited that the players will soon return to the ice, including Red Deer native Sean Caple.

“I think it’s great,” said Caple. “That’s my livelihood, camps and clinics and lessons.”

Caple, an Oilers fan, runs hockey camps in Colorado, but has also worked with TSN as a statistician and researcher during the playoffs. Before moving to Colorado, he played and coached in the Red Deer Minor Hockey Association.

“When the Avs are playing, the interest piques. I think if there wasn’t a season it would have affected me in the spring and summer when I do my camps.”

Caple said he thinks he will try to make it to a handful of games, comparable to the amount he went to last year.

“I think it’s going to take a while (for attendance to return), but if the Avs put a good product on the ice, people will show up,” said Caple.

Darren McArthur, owner of Cork’d Taphouse and Grill, said he is hopeful that business starts to pick back up with the players returning to the ice.

“I think everybody is happy,” said McArthur. “I think people are starving for hockey so it’s good to be getting back.”

Typically, game days at the bar would see increased patrons and with the lockout, McArthur said they saw fewer people coming out.

“I know many of the customers weren’t happy with what was going on,” said McArthur. “But now that it’s back, I think people get back and as soon as the first couple of games get going, I’m sure everybody will get back. I hope everyone starts coming out and having fun again.”

McArthur was hopeful it would be a long time before another lockout. The tentative agreement is for 10 years.



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