Effects of NHL lockout go beyond the game

Published Jan 9, 2013 at 11:23 am (Updated Jan 9, 2013 at 11:23 am)

There’s nothing quite like pushing a deadline to its limits, and that’s exactly what happened with the National Hockey League lockout – early Sunday morning, mere days before the season would have been officially canceled, the owners and NHL Players Association came to an agreement. After a very long 113 days, a preliminary settlement was reached on a new 10-year collective bargaining agreement.

This was the NHL’s third lockout in 20 years; the one before this resulted in complete cancellation of the 2004-2005 season. During the lockout that began back in September, there were rumors of NHL players heading to Canada or Russia to keep their careers alive. However, it is not the players or even the owners that needed to worry about their pocketbooks the most. It is the lower-level folks whose livelihoods depend on the games – ushers, concession workers, Zamboni drivers, custodial crews and even parking attendants. But the effects don’t stop there. They trickled into the city – hotel rooms that normally would have been booked for games weren’t, and bars and restaurants who pack crowds for games lost revenue, as did the servers whose wages come from tips.

Connie George, vice president of communications for VisitPittsburgh, Allegheny County’s tourism promotion agency, estimates that if the Pittsburgh Penguins play 21 home games in the abbreviated season, $46.2 million in direct spending will filter in to the local economy from a combination of hotel rooms, transportation, food and beverage sales and retail sales from out of town visitors alone.

Had the full season been played, that number would be more than $90 million. Add to that lost revenue from ticket sales, lost revenue from parking during games and lost revenue from even the taxes that come from ticket sales and parking, and the amount of money that Pittsburgh lost over the lockout jumps even higher.

Oh, and let’s not forget that Consol Energy Center, which cost more than $320 million to build, was only being used for concerts, monster truck rallies, Pittsburgh Power games and a few other events here and there. Payment for the beautiful, state-of-the-art arena comes in part from Pittsburgh Penguins revenue. No hockey games means no hockey revenue.

Despite the lockout being over, the losses will continue. The season will consist of around only 48 or 50 games per team, compared to the normal 82. Disgruntled fans have given up season tickets, and others are boycotting games all together. We are thrilled that an agreement has finally been reached. We hope that, finally, a lesson has been learned, so that after the 2019-2020 season, when either side may terminate the deal, history does not repeat itself.

Some may think of hockey as just a game. But to many, it is much more than that. It is a living.

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