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Fan: 'I've got to admit, I didn't miss it'

7/13/2005 - NHL

Andrew Simone thinks the NHL and the players' union forgot one
important thing -- the fans -- when reaching a tentative agreement to
end a yearlong lockout.

"Both sides were wrong, and they didn't have the goodwill built
up that baseball has, and from what I understand, they're not going
to be lowering ticket prices," the employee of a Denver sporting
goods store said Wednesday after the deal was announced. "If
someone gives me free tickets I'll go, but I'm not paying."

Reaction to the end of the lockout among fans was muted. Some
said they were happy to have the game back, while others -- such as
Simone -- still had plenty of resentment built up from the prolonged
stalemate.

"In a place like Minnesota, hockey means a lot," said Peter
Ceruzzi, general manager of Tom Reid's Hockey City Pub in St. Paul,
Minn. "But in the South, I think people have found other uses for
the entertainment dollar they once saved for hockey."

Even in stalwart hockey cities like Philadelphia, not all the
fans were clamoring for the sport's return.

"I've got to admit, I didn't miss it," said Joe Hartman, a
Philadelphia insurance adjuster and former collegiate hockey
player.

The deal between the league and the union, which still needs to
be ratified next week, ends a dispute in which the NHL become the
first North American sports league to lose an entire season because
of a labor dispute. If all goes as expected, there could be NHL
games on the schedule come October.

But will the fans return along with the players?

"It's going to be very difficult," former Buffalo Sabres
forward Rob Ray said. "Even a town like [Buffalo], I think it's
going to take a bit for them to come back to the numbers that we've
had. It's not going to be an easy task."

Others around the league said the response from fans was already
positive.

"We have a bell in our office you hear when tickets are sold.
It has been ringing consistently today," Atlanta Thrashers GM Don
Waddell.