Area residents speak on ended lockout

The Buffalo Bills’ hiring of Doug Marrone as the team’s next head coach wasn’t the only big sports news in town Sunday, as the National Hockey League and its players’ union came to a tentative agreement to end the season-long lockout.

As you can imagine, area NHL and Buffalo Sabres fans were pleased with the news that greeted them in the early hours of the morning, Sunday.

“Yes,” an enthusiastic Brian Majka, a former Dunkirk resident, said when asked if it was about time the NHL lockout ended. “Since being transplanted to the Baltimore area, instead of watching hockey I’ve had to resort to watching washington Wizards games. I was recently thinking about dumping the Wizards and watching paint dry instead. Welcome back NHL!”

Avid Sabres fan, and Fredonia resident, Josh Tedone, noted that he was thrilled that the lockout was over, but expressed his displeasure with the NHL.

“As thrilled as I am personally that hockey is back, to me this strike represents complete incompetency on the part of the NHL at all levels and a complete disregard for the loyal fans,” Tedone said.

Season ticket holder Jim Rozen echoed Tedone’s sentiments.

“While I’m glad to be going to games again, I’m disappointed that the fans had to suffer through this nonsense caused by the NHL and NHLPA,” Rozen said. “On the other hand, I’m excited for a shorter season where every game will have more meaning, giving season ticket holders more value for their investment.”

Luke Crawford, a Sabres fan who has been skating and playing the game for nearly as long as he’s been able to walk, did his part during the lockout to let the NHL and NHLPA know he was unhappy.

“I signed up for a movement called Just Drop It,” Crawford said. “It was a fan’s way of trying to pressure the NHL and NHLPA into making a deal. I think I’m going to stick to that plan. I will start supporting the NHL and the Sabres in mid to late February after they play 15 games. I’m still a huge fan of the game – I have a Sabres tattoo on my leg – but I think it’s important to let the NHL and NHLPA know that their greed has angered a lot of us.”

Whether or not the lockout has driven fans away from the game will not be known until games begin to be played in mid January, but for some, it’s going to take some time for them to want to spend the money to go see their favorite teams take the ice.

“I have thrown in on season tickets for the Sabres since 2005,” Tedone said. “But I only plan on going to two, maybe three games. The strike has really turned me off the sport.”

Crawford offered a similar outlook as Tedone.

“The lockout happened because these two groups fought over a huge amount of money that was made from playing a sport in front of, and on the backs, of their fans, Crawford added. “Fans that consist of blue collar people like firemen, soldiers, police officers, steel workers, teachers and nurses. And these people spend portions of their hard-earned and underpaid paychecks to support a local team. It appears the NHL and NHLPA have forgotten they play for us. I’m happy hockey is back, yet I think the NHL needs to take great steps to show their appreciation to their fans.”

Another big Sabres fan, Victoria Lytel, a resident of Steamburg, expressed some displeasure for the NHL, and Commissioner Gary Bettman, but noted that the simple supply and demand of tickets will likely keep her away from the First Niagara Center this season.

“I didn’t think a deal would get struck,” Steamburg resident Victoria Lytel said. “Of course I still love my Sabres. I won’t be attending any games this year. Everyone and their brother will be there and I think the games will sell out too quick.”

Majka, however, will look to get to a few Sabres’ games this season.

“Looks like all of the Eastern Conference teams will play one another twice, one game away and one game at home,” Majka said. “So I’ll get to see them in Washington and possibly Philadelphia. Maybe I’ll even get to visit and make it to the First Niagara Center.”