By David Cruz
Today would have been opening day for the National Hockey League, but the entire first two weeks of the NHL season have been wiped out by the management lockout. The New Jersey Devils would have opened their home season on Saturday but the impact of the lockout is being felt beyond the ice in Newark. With two weeks of season already gone, and talks in New York going nowhere, the two sides seem as far apart as they were when the lockout began in September.
“The bottom line is they have to figure out how to split up $3 billion in revenue, and they haven’t even gotten to the main event,” said ESPN Radio host Bill Daughtry. “They’ve been locked out for 25 days now. Today was supposed to be opening day. I get the feeling this is gonna last for a little while.”
In the shadow of arenas like the Prudential Center, where the Devils play their home games, the consequences of the lockout are being felt not in the heart necessarily but in the pocketbook. At the Brick City Bar & Grill, plans for downsizing are already underway.
“Ordinarily, it would probably be a madhouse to be honest with you, lines out the door, both floors packed,” reports Ashley Wyzykowski, the manager at Brick City Bar & Grill. “We’re probably anticipating only keeping the bottom floor open. It’ll have an impact on our employees, tips, their money that’s coming in; also, revenue that’s coming in for the business.”
Mayor Cory Booker says the city needs the team back in action because a long lockout could be devastating downtown.
“It’s something that’s very important for young people and, more importantly in this horrible economy that we’re just climbing out of here in the city of Newark and across the country,” said Booker. “To lose these jobs associated with it and the revenue for my businesses is a really, really painful thing, and I hope that when the parties go to the negotiating table, they’re not just thinking about themselves and what’s in it for them, but they’re really thinking about the higher calling because cities like this have done a lot.”
Like contributing a quarter billion dollars to building the arena, plus tax credits and more. Still, the Devils have struggled economically, avoiding default on some major loans by restructuring their debt last month in a deal that’s still not final, leading to speculation that a long lockout could put the team in jeopardy. Assemblyman Al Coutinho says he thinks the Devils are going to be OK.
“I know that Jeff has been doing everything he can to restructure his finances” said Coutinho, who chairs the Assembly Commerce & Economic Development Committee. “Their deep run into the playoffs last year helped him tremendously, and, again, as part of my ongoing communications with the Devils organization, I’m confident that they’re going to come out of this, and that they’re going to be strong, and have a bright future.”
Couthino says he thinks the lockout will be settled by the end of the year. If that’s true, starting with Saturday’s home season opener, that would mean 15 home games and millions of dollars in salaries, taxes and fees, lost.
Saturday’s season opener would have pitted the Devils against the Boston Bruins, always a big draw on a Saturday night, but the Rock will be dark this weekend and that’s bad news for bars and restaurants, where the hope is that the players can finally get back on the ice before this turns into a long, cold season for business.