Dallas, TX, United States (4E Sports) – Not only players and team owners are being financially affected by the NHL lockout but also owners and operators of many ice skating rinks all over the country.
In North Texas, the thousands of kids who flock regularly to skating rinks in the hope of following the footsteps of their Dallas Stars idols are now gone.
“When you’re in a nontraditional market like Dallas, the number of kids who start playing directly relates to the people following the Stars,” said Eric Silverman, director of hockey for the Dallas Penguins Junior Hockey Association.
“We’re talking about 6- to 8-year-old kids, and when you look at the kids born in ’92 and ’93, there were a lot of kids playing because the Stars won the Stanley Cup in 1999,” Silverman added.
Without NHL action, Texas Amateur Hockey Association president Reggie Hall said bringing newcomers to the game is even harder.
“A lot of parents here didn’t grow up with the sport so there isn’t that natural pull, a natural affinity for the game. And when kids express an interest, parents can be somewhat reluctant,” said Hall.
Aside from this, parents are also driven away by the cost of playing hockey, unlike basketball which needs only a pair of shoes and a ball.
“Unlike the upper Midwest, New England and certainly Canada, where there is a plethora of publicly owned rinks, here it’s all private, and because of the climate you have much higher costs to keeping the rinks cold,” Hall said. “Costs can be prohibitive.”
Skating rinks in Minnesota and Buffalo also share the same fate as those in Dallas, with fewer kids playing due to absence of NHL action.
Mark Grundtisch, a skating rink owner in Cheektowaga, New York, is blaming the NHL lockout for the decline in revenue.
“The Sabres drive it,” Grundtisch said. “They’re the No. 1 marketer of hockey. They don’t have to do anything other than play and win games and it’s advertising for hockey.”
Hall warned that if the NHL lockout persists, the interest in hockey could wane and kids might be enticed to try other activities.