Sunday, September 16, 2012

Locked Out

Last night, the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NHL and the NHLPA was allowed to expire after they, in the words of NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly, "determined that there was no point in convening a formal bargaining session in light of the fact that neither side is in a position to move off of its last proposal."

Sounds a lot like the US Congress and their bipartisan bickering.

And like Congressional stalemates over budgets, tax breaks and entitlement programs, those who are hurt the most by the lockout are the ones that are overlooked, who don't have a voice in the matter. In the lockout, those who are arguably hurt the most are the businesses around the arenas and practice facilities of the teams.

I know that Pat and I easily spend $100 or more in food, drink and the occasional souvenir the night of every home game that we attend. There are games where we spend less, and there are games where we spend more, especially if we are spending the night in DC. We spend some of that money "pregaming" at local bars and restaurants in the area of Verizon Center, especially RFD, the Irish Channel and Nando's Peri-Peri. Sometimes, we just grab a drink or two at Rocket Bar or the Iron Horse Taproom. We'll have a drink or two, and maybe a pretzel or peanuts at Verizon Center, and depending on the night of the week, sometimes we'll head over to the District Chophouse with our friends from 421 for a drink afterwards.

We ride Metro down via the Green Line, and pay for parking in Greenbelt. I take the ICC to get to Greenbelt from work on a weeknight. We stay overnight in the Convention Center area several times a season.

And we're not the only ones. There are plenty of people who don't even have tickets to the game who come downtown to watch the game at one of the aforementioned bars and soak in the atmosphere in the area.

We can't forget the practices either. Hundreds of people will come out to Kettler Capitals Iceplex any day the Caps are practicing, and they spend money at Kettler for t-shirts, jerseys, pucks and other trinkets for autographing. Those people then go to the food court at Ballston Mall, or to one of the establishments very close by, like Union Jacks, Rock Bottom or Front Page.

It's these businesses that are the ones who will suffer the most during this lockout. Fans will be disappointed, and maybe go to an AHL or ECHL affiliate to get their "hockey fix." As expensive as NHL tickets have become, it's even possible those minor league teams and the businesses surrounding their arenas will find permanent places in the hearts and wallets of those people. I know a lower bowl ticket at the Hershey Bears' Giant Center is a fraction of the cost of a ticket for a Caps game (less than $30 versus well over $100), and it's barely a further trip for me to see a game that is of comparable quality.

If $100 of my money, times the 40 some games I can attend (preseason, home and playoff) seems paltry, imagine that amount times 19,000+. There is easily a quarter of a million dollars per home game that won't be flowing into the hands of local businesses because the owners and the players can't even be bothered to consider a compromise.

In the meantime, at least I can use the money I'm not spending at Caps games to get my WRX back on the road sooner. So, I'm still helping local business, just not the ones I usually frequent in the fall and winter.

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