About 15 Lightning players skate in Brandon on Monday morning as the 113 day NHL lockout ends. The team hopes to be on the ice to start official training camp later this week.
Lightning head coach Guy Boucher speaks to the media Monday morning as the 113 day NHL lockout ends. The team hopes to begin a one week training camp later this week.
TAMPA, FL -
One of the questions during the NHL lockout: would fans come back when the games start?
At Hattricks bar in downtown Tampa, a social headquarters for Tampa Bay Lightning fans, most patrons are willing to pardon the players and owners for the 113-day work stoppage.
"I can't wait for [the games] to start," said John Geiger, who claims to go to about ten Lightning games a season. "I'll be going to the first one for sure."
"We're very excited. It's fantastic to have hockey back," said Hattricks' owner Johnny Heffernan. He had not seen a drop off in business yet, but feared he would if the NHL lockout had not been settled soon. "Come the end of football season, that's when we really would have felt some lost business."
The timing of the hockey's return is important to fan Jim Sorrells. "It's football. Then it's hockey. Then it's baseball. Let's keep it going. If you're a true sports fan, no one likes to see a gap."
Some hockey fans have turned to social media to say they won't watch this season because of the lockout.
At Hattricks, fans are more forgiving.
"I don't think there is going to be any backlash, especially with only 48 games, people are going to want to get back there. They understand it's a business," Geiger said.
"It put a little sour taste in my mouth because they were fighting over millions of dollars and with the economy the way that it is," added Sorrells, "but fans just want to get back to the game and have something to do."
"Everybody loves hockey around here," said Heffernan. "They just wanted [the players and owners] to settle their differences and get on the ice and play the game."
Still, there are fans that never missed hockey during its absence. "Who cares about hockey?" said bar patron Robin Peck. "We're not Canadians. No one cares. Sorry. It's all about baseball and football, and that's it."