By David Cruz
The box office at the Prudential Center wasn’t exactly swamped on the first weekday after the announcement of the tentative agreement to end the NHL lockout. The shortened schedule has yet to be announced, but the end of the lockout is great news for the city and the hundreds of people whose livelihood depends on the Devils playing hockey and the arena being open.
“When it’s game night, you can see a sea of red coming from Penn Station because the transportation is so easy for them to get to the arena and they have a lot of good outdoor activities while the game’s going on,” says Doug Doyle, host of WBGO’s Sports Jam. “The restaurants though, that’s the key. The restaurants that have built up a business right there in the alley by Prudential Center, they’re packed. When there is no game, and there is no season, those restaurants took a huge hit.”
The city will only estimate that the loss of economic activity from the lockout is in the tens of millions of dollars with a loss of revenue from taxes, parking and other related activities. The Devils still aren’t commenting on the deal because it’s not technically done yet, but they did send us an economic analysis of the impact of last year’s playoff run. The team said the 11-game playoff run alone created more than 50 jobs and over $5 million in taxes and economic activity.
Assemblyman Al Coutinho (D-29), who chairs the Commerce and Economic Development Committee, predicted a mid-January return of hockey.
“We needed some positive news and I’m thrilled I was right but I’m more thrilled that we’re going to see a few hundred employees back to work. And on game nights, we’re going see the bars around the Prudential Center bustling and we’re going try to get back to life as normal to the extent that we can,” he said.
The season could resume as early as January 19 for the Devils, although the league still has to give an OK for training camps to open. Remember, this was a management lockout, not a strike. As for hockey fans, their long national nightmare is nearly over.
“Think about your favorite thing and it’s not there and all of a sudden you wake up on Sunday morning and you get the news that it’s back and it’s going to be on television again soon and your favorite team is going to be playing,” said Hoboken resident Ray Smith. “It is like Christmas!”
The last time a labor dispute cut short an NHL season was back in 1994-95. Ask any hardcore Devils fan and they’ll remind you that that was the year the team surprised everybody and won a championship. Whether this year’s team has that kind of stuff, we’ll start to find out in a couple of weeks.