NHL's lockout loss is Albany's gain

Posted at: 10/13/2012 11:46 PM
Updated at: 10/14/2012 12:07 AM
By: Dan Levy

ALBANY - What hockey fans can't get in New York and Los Angeles, they're getting to see in places like Albany and Glens Falls.

Now that the beginning of the National Hockey League season has been canceled because of a lockout, all of a sudden, smaller arenas across the country are becoming beneficiaries.

For those who are diehard fans, the NHL lockout matters.

"I'm a huge, lifelong hockey fan and not having hockey on the large pro level is a big hindrance on my winter," says Bill Gwynn of Albany. "

"I've been a huge, huge hockey fan since I was a kid," said Chris Lawrence, also of Albany. "Not having hockey, especially since (a lockout occurred) in '04 and '05, it's terrible, it's bad for fans, it's bad for everyone."

But is a lockout really bad for everyone?

"You'll never see the quality of hockey like we're seeing tonight," said Bob Belber, general manager of the Times Union Center, thrilled that the Albany Devils early season game on a Saturday afternoon drew 5,072 fans. "Many people know the NHL players are locked out and there's a lot of these players that have been sent down to the AHL level so I think a lot of people want to bring their kids. They want the kids to see the quality of play that they're going to see here."

That quality involves players from the Los Angeles Kings organization and the New Jersey Devils, who were competing for the Stanley Cup just four months ago.

"To the people who are waiting to come down (to Times Union Center), I'd come down now and take advantage because who knows when it'll be over," said Dave Sitterly, of Latham.

Sitterly's joy seems to be Nancy Morin's discontent.

"I'm angry, they did this to me six years ago," Morin, a season ticket holder for the New Jersey Devils, enduring her second lockout, said. "I had to watch Martin Brodeur lose the whole season when he could have been even further ahead as a goalie. It really irritates me."

Nancy and her husband, Zach, drove three hours from their home in Cranford, New Jersey to see the Albany Devils play Saturday afternoon.

"It's a long drive," said Zach. "I have to work a twelve hour day yesterday to be able to get off today to drive up here to watch this hockey game."

The Morin's say they're willing to make the sacrifice and travel weekends to Albany until the lockout ends, but Nancy says there's a way for her beloved Devils to redeem themselves.

"Hopefully they'll understand what it is they've put me through," Nancy says, "And they'll do something and they'll win the Stanley Cup."

Unless the NHL owners and the players association can figure out how to split $3 billion in hockey-related revenue, there won't be any Stanley Cup presentation this season.

As of now, the lockout has forced games to be canceled through October 24th. The Albany Devils and the Adirondack Phantoms will continue their seasons with rosters bolstered by NHL talent.