After a long and arduous negotiating process between owners and players, the National Hockey League – and the Montreal Canadiens – are back after a lockout stretching over 113 days and with hockey’s return, local bars and sports merchants hope their sales will flourish.
Employees of bars in the downtown core say sales took a nosedive during the lockout.
“The bars were really, really struggling without the hockey crowd,” said Kenny MacIntyre, a bartender at McLean’s Pub. “They could turn a dead Tuesday into an absolute blast.”
For owner Santana Enrique of Sports Crescent on Ste-Catherine St., merchandise sales during the lockout were 60 per cent lower than they were during the 2011-12 NHL season. According to Enrique, he’s just happy there’s a season at all.
“Next time… they [should] start [negotiating] after the season’s finished,” said Enrique. “Don’t wait until the season starts and then take all the fans and businesses hostage.”
Place Du Souvenir on De la Gauchetière St., a sports merchandise boutique managed by former Concordia engineering student Ali Ridha, was hit especially hard – for he says 80 per cent of his sales depend on the sale of Canadiens’ merchandise.
“For our business, even though the game is back, fans are still affected by the lockout,” said Ridha. “Business-wise, people are going to stop buying stuff because they’ve been very frustrated.”
That post-lockout frustration has been felt by a number of fans across the league: a movement started in December entitled Just Drop It is calling on fans to boycott the equivalent amount of games cancelled by the league after Dec. 21, 2012. The movement is gaining serious steam through social media – over 23,000 people have liked Just Drop Its Facebook page.
Movements like this could force the NHL to listen to fans, explained Ridha. “They have to do something to get back the fans and get the game back, because I think the lockout actually almost killed the game of hockey.”
Enrique disagrees as a fan, saying that he will stand by the Habs despite the frustration of the lockout because of their legacy as an organization.
“It’s like the New York Yankees, so we can’t just walk away from the Canadiens,” said Enrique. “We walk with the Canadiens all the way but we’re upset, that’s it.”