NHL lockout ices local economies

Looks like center ice may be dark for a while. Another canceled season could permanently damage hockey-related businesses and team fan bases.

By Bruce Kennedy Nov 27, 2012 2:30PM

Credit: Brian Bahr/Getty Images
Caption: Fans show their feelings regarding a NHL lockoutFederal mediators are meeting with both sides of the National Hockey League lockout Wednesday, hoping to break a stalemate that already canceled a large portion of this year's games and threatens to keep center ice dark for the entire season.

Hockey fans aren't the only ones who feel frozen out by the continuing labor dispute between the NHL and its players. The lockout is having a dramatically negative financial impact, including an estimated $100 million lose in pre-season revenue alone.

Soon after the walkout began in September, officials in Nassau County, N.Y., home to the New York Islanders team, speculated the region could end up losing more than $60 million in visitor spending alone -- and another $1 million in taxes and revenues -- if the NHL season is iced.

That total includes $13 million for food and beverages, $10 million in hotel and retail and $12 million for transportation. The county also accumulated more than $1.1 million in direct revenue from Islander games at the Nassau Coliseum during the 2010 season.

A tourism bureau study in Pittsburgh, meanwhile, says just one Penguins home game brings in about $2.1 million to the region -- with the team collecting up to $1.3 million in revenue and local hotels, restaurants and other businesses making between $800,000 and $1.1 million.

The retail sector is also getting a body check from the walkout. "Christmas is when we do our big Penguins items -- the specialized jerseys, and the hats and hoodies," Carla Jeke, who operates a Perani's Hockey World, told TribLive.com. "The rest of the year it's only about 10% because youth hockey is so big, but at Christmas, it’s going to be down if they aren’t playing."

Joe Campbell, a spokesman for the mayor's office in St. Paul, Minn., says local fans there spend up to $75 per local Minnesota Wild game -- and estimates the city could end up losing about $60 million in local business sales and $300,000 in tax revenue. "You cannot underestimate 18,000 people 45 times a year on a downtown economy," he told KSMP-TV.

The NHL has been through this scenario before. It had its 2004/2005 season canceled due to a similar lockout, but the sport and its fans bounced back. 

And nationally, NHL television ratings have been good. The outdoor NHL Winter Classic game has especially grown in popularity among TV viewers, attracting 3.74 million viewers this year.

But there are concerns that even if hockey does return this year, a sizable number of fans -- especially in cities with relatively new NHL franchises -- will not. "Many of these fan bases are likely done with the NHL," says Bleacher Report columnist Dave Ungar, "and will not be spending their hard-earned cash on tickets and merchandise to support a sport that has shown an increasing indifference to those very same fans."

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