In Part One of my hard-hitting (or at least, softly grazing) expose on the NHL lockout, I identified youth hockey players as being part of the group that I refer to as the real* losers as this idiocy continues. This week, I’ll discuss two more groups that can be considered to be among the real losers of the current lockout: local businesses and charities.
*By real losers, I mean two things: this is a group that had no say in/control over whether the lockout occurred, and is a group that gains NOTHING from a lack of NHL hockey. The owners and players themselves can complain about how much they are losing out, but since they brought about the lockout through their actions, and each stand to gain something from continuing this charade, I don’t consider them losers at all.
The Buffalo Niagara region attracts about 16 million tourists annually, and even though we all recognize Niagara Falls as the number one tourist attraction in Western New York, it would be naive to assume that no one visits Buffalo in order to attend Sabres games. I don’t live in Buffalo, so every time I come in to watch the Sabres and stay overnight in a hotel, I count as a tourist, and I know I’m not the only one. People from the Syracuse and Rochester areas have an easier time getting to Buffalo to watch the Sabres play than they do making the trek down to New York City, and while I doubt many season ticket holders live in these areas, I know of many people who make 5-10 trips a year to the First Niagara Center in order to watch some NHL action live. People who hail from Western Pennsylvania and the Canadian side of the Falls also come into Buffalo for hockey, so we’re not just talking about a few hundred people who won’t be visiting Buffalo this year: the number has to be in the thousands, and even if it’s just the low thousands, that’s a few thousand less hotel rooms being booked, a few thousand less reservations being made at restaurants, a few thousand less wallets being cracked open at the Galleria Mall – you get my drift. In a city the size of Buffalo, and during a time in which our economy as a whole is less than impressive, those missing dollars hurt, and could wind up costing people their jobs.
It’s not just the tourist dollars a city like Buffalo loses because of the lockout: all of the local stores that sell Sabres merchandise are going to experience a decline in sales. Jerseys, hats, posters, trading cards, pennants, foam fingers, glass mugs, license plates, key chains, candy – you name it, less people are buying it, because we’re all sorts of pissed off. My son is growing out of the Sabres jersey I picked up last year, but do you think there is any chance I am going to spend $160 on a jersey when the season is on the brink of being cancelled? Hell no. I miss the game dearly, but I refuse to throw money at a league that has made fans endure two lockouts in less than a decade. Sorry, local businesses: you better hope the Bills start winning more so you can live off of their revenue stream this year!
Last, but not least: local charities. So many players donate their time and resources to helping local charities, making appearances in order to draw more people to the events, visiting kids in the hospital – I know: I’m tugging on your heartstrings here, right? Call me sentimental all you want – it’s true. Professional athletes are major celebrities in cities such as Buffalo, and having them all leave town to go home or play overseas means no Sabres dealing cards at Aces and Blades, no Sabres bowling at the Bowl-a-Rama, no Sabres making an appearance at the Day of Caring event – and, sadly, little to no interest from the general public in these events. Add it all up, and the lockout means a lot of money out of the pockets of local businesses in charities in Buffalo and cities with NHL franchises all around North America.
In my final segment of this series, I will focus the spotlight on the people who can send the NHL the strongest message regarding this lockout: we, the fans! Stay tuned . . . .