National Hockey League games will resume this Saturday, but the four-month-long dispute between players and owners cost owners about $612 million in ticket sales and players about $800 million in salaries.
Fans received a body check, too: “Whether you backed the owners or the players, neither side really cared about the game, and there is no way for fans to voice their opinion other than giving up being a hockey fan, which nobody is going to do,” said Washington Capitals fan Andrew Ohleger. “We all love the sport too much.”
The Capitals play at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.’s Chinatown, where liquor store clerk Robert Paik summarized the mood: “All the businesses in this area say the same thing: It at least hurts a little bit.”
Directly outside the Verizon Center, Hakim Ahmin of Slices on the Walk prepared pizza inside a booth no bigger than a hockey penalty box and said, “It’s affecting all of us. … It hurts—it hurts everyone.”
Economic tensions were also apparent beyond downtown D.C. The lockout hurt business at a recent sports card show in Tyson’s Corner, Va., where tables sprawled over the burgundy and blue carpets of the Crown Plaza. Each table contained binders full of cards, stacks of autographed sports photos from the 1950s through today, and other memorabilia for fans to peruse. It was like creeping through an old attic stocked with sports treasure from ages past, but fewer fans crept when their favorite sport slept.
Seller Donald Gakenheimer said the lockout forced cancelation of the annual Washington Capitals Convention, which brings “4,000 to 6,000 pure hockey fans” to the one-day event. This year, Gakenheimer’s memorabilia store went without such instant exposure, and the sales that often follow.
The NHL may recover when games resume, but the biggest injuries from this hockey fight belong to the innocent bystanders: the hockey fans and local businesses.