Fans and businesses back onboard after lockout

The scars from the NHL lockout may take awhile to heal but for a couple of Red Deer businesses the process has already started with the game set to begin this weekend.

“There were other things for us to focus on but we’re very excited to get back on to focusing on hockey,” said Nicole Lashmar, manager of Jersey City in Parkland Mall.

The front of the store display featured other sports as the lockout dragged on but once word came of a settlement the NHL was back in the spotlight throughout the store, she said.

Lashmar said the lockout was felt at outlets right across the country but it took awhile as customers were still buying jerseys of their favorite teams believing the season was going to start any day.

“The longer it kept going on we had more customers come in to tell us they were not going to be purchasing any NHL products,” she said.

For Bill Ranford it was not so much a relief business-wise with the news of a settlement but more on a personal basis for the self-admitted hockey nut.

“Without question, I can’t wait for the first game to be on TV,” said the sports card and memorabilia shop owner.

Ranford says his business felt the pinch in certain areas, especially when it came to the selling of prized rookie cards of the new NHLers, something he says is still up in the air.

“The hobby gets to decide if there are rookie cards this year,” he explained. “If there are rookie cards I’ll be fine. If not it will be a struggle. But you know what, I don’t care, hockey is back.”

Ranford said he still had plenty of hockey on his plate watching his grandsons, one who plays midget level in Stettler and the other a member of the WHL Kamloops Blazers.

He also is hooked up with the WHL network so he can view games on almost every night of the week but he dearly missed his NHL.

“I got a lot of hockey in and now I’m going to get more, the stuff I really, really love.”

One of the aspects of the pro game he missed was when the L.A. Kings were in Alberta with son Bill in tow as he is the goalie coach for the Kings.

“I missed the chance to visit with him at a game,” he said.

Lashmar is optimistic the hockey fans will get back into the groove and support the teams they cheer for and that means warm bodies walking through the door, ready to plunk down some coin on a jersey, t-shirt, hat or toque with the logo of their favourite team.

“We’ve got tons and tons of stuff, Oilers and Flames stuff ready to go,” she said.

Like most hockey fans on this side of the border, Ranford is willing to forgive and forget but he also feels the process of getting fans back in the cities further south might be an issue.

“That was part of the problem before the lockout and after the lockout. That’s a problem that possibly without a movement will never go away.”

He figures the owners will need to do something special in order to get the fans back in the fold but Lashmar says in her mind it’s very simple process to win her back.

“Myself I would be extremely happy with an amazing season, people playing hard because they love the sport.”

sports@reddeerexpress.com

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