Who Are The Real Victims Of The NHL Lockout?

The NHL season is expected to start Saturday. A lockout cut in half the number of games to be played and many worried it would cause economic hardship. But that is not necessarily the case.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The lockout is over and the much delayed National Hockey League's season is now set to begin on Saturday. The regular season will run 48 games instead of the usual 82.

So what's the economic effect of missing almost half the season? NPR's Mike Pesca finds, not as bad as you might think.

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: We've all seen the reports during the lockout, the empty bar near the arena should be brimming with Bruins backers or a Washington Avalanche acolytes. Or maybe it's not a bar. Maybe it's pizza in Pittsburgh.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: On the other side of the arena, Pizza Milano's was a lot quieter tonight that it would be with the Penguins in town.

PESCA: It figures the local news to feature the shots of the unturned turnstiles. And mayors in Boston, Philadelphia and other places estimated that their teams generated $1 million of economic activity every game.

But economists dispute those figures - or rather they say they're true as far as they go. But they don't take into account the barely perceptible uptick in thousands of businesses where hockey fans wind up spending the discretionary income they would've spent on hockey.

Even the broadcast partners of the teams weren't left hurting that much, says John Ourand, of the Sports Business Journal.

JOHN OURAND: The way it works is cable operators just don't pay the regional networks as much. Basically what happened was they lost the first couple of games of the season that people generally don't watch as heavily as they do toward the end.

PESCA: Ourand points to the ticket takers, the ushers, the workers on game day as real victims of the lockout. Players, owners and municipalities will be relatively unscathed.

Mike Pesca, NPR News.

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