BY BILL WOLCOTT
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — In mid-December, when the Buffalo Bills are out of the picture, sports fans’ eyes turn to the Buffalo Sabres.
Not this year. The NHL lockout leaves local bars thin on television alternatives and thin on customers, particularly during the week. Attitudes, Mr. Quiggleys and Josie’s on the west end noted the difference.
“It’s definitely affected us business wise,” said Bob Soemann of Attitudes. “People would come out three times a week to watch a hockey game.”
Fans would have fun in a friendly atmosphere.
Russ Ferchen used to come all the time. “Attitudes is a great place to watch games,” he said. “I’m hoping they get back quick. The Bills aren’t doing too good. We need the Sabres. I want them back. I want them back.”
Art Currie once had season tickets to the Bills and the Sabres and had adventurous Sundays, going to the Bills matinees at 1 p.m. and then to the Sabres’ opening faceoff at 7 p.m.
The lockout is irksome. “It’s all about money and in the long run, who’s going to wind up paying for it?” he asked, without looking for an answer. “There’s a lot of greed involved.”
“I think it’s bull,” Tanya Poss offered. “I don’t think it’s ever going to end, people are greedy.”
Stu Caswell, who usually watches the Sabres from home, said, “It’s a bunch of rich owners against the players. The owners always think they have it over them, but I think the owners will cave eventually. If the players can hold out a couple years, they’ll win.”
• At Mr. Quiggley’s, the Dead Dog Saloon, there’s been a definite drop in business, but several sports fans have found alternatives to hockey.
“Any kind of sport brings any kind of business into any kind of bar — especially a winning one,” said Nancy Carrier. “There’s girls softball, Olympics, volleyball, curling! Oh my God. I’m amazed they’re watching curling.”
Factory workers will come out at lunch time to watch a game.
There are Canadian customers. Barry Legare said the bars in Niagara Falls, Ontario have definitely cooled off. “Every Saturday night, every bar in Niagara Falls is full to watch the hockey game, but not any more.”
Now that the Grey Cup is over, Canadians are looking forward to the World Junior Hockey Championships which begin Dec. 26 in Russia. There are two or three NHL players on the Canada roster.
The United States, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Japan, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Canada will compete in the annual event.
“The Sabres are nice to watch while you’re here,” Legare said. I’d rather watch a Montreal Canadiens game.”
Chuck Faraci, whose daughter-in-law works for the television crew at Sabres games, has turned to Hockey Night in Canada, which shows reruns of old NHL games and historic hockey.
• At Josie’s, Rob Ritz is angry with the NHL owners and the players. “I think they’re all stupid. They’re shooting themselves in the foot, both of them,” he said. “I watched every game. I love hockey. We used to get a free shot when they scored.”
The owner denied that practice and left the room.
“In this bar, hockey has a big effect,” said Burrel Harper. “Put the game on and everybody loves to watch it. Right now it has a big effect.”
One customer said, “We don’t ever care anymore. What are people in the south doing now? They don’t even like hockey as it is. Hockey doesn’t belong in Florida. Hockey doesn’t belong in Arizona.”
• At the Summit Sports Bar,Tom Sarratori has put up eight televisions and has added a kitchen. He needs hockey.
“It affects a lot,” Sarratori said. “It always helps out at nights during the week. Weekend nights we still do OK, but the Sabres are always a nice boost.”
He added, “The Bills are out. That’s another reason it hurts that the Sabres aren’t playing because people are looking for something else. With the Bills out of it, this would have been a perfect time, the holidays.”
Some customers come in to watch college hockey, but with the Bills out of the running, there is less interest in all of football, according to Sarratori.
“It stinks that we don’t have the Sabres,” added Mary Szeluga. “It’s terrible that the lockout is occurring. We’re Sabre fans; we have the flag and everything. We can’t go to games, nothing. It really stinks.”