Tonawanda News — The Buffalo Sabres return to the ice today to host the Philadelphia Flyers — and local bar and restaurant owners are hoping Sabres fans return with the team.
During Sabres games, Dwyer's Irish Pub in North Tonawanda is often packed full of Sabres fans but the lack of hockey has really hurt the small pub.
Jaclyn Hess, a waitress at Dwyer's, said she has seen the effect the lockout has had on the bottom line.
"Business has been slow, and we are looking forward to Sabres season helping pick us up," she said.
Dwyer's will be offering food and drink specials during Sabres games, a move they hope will increase business.
Fans like Steven Wiemckowski of Tonawanda, who said he plans on watching almost every game at the pub, will be back in the familiar seats soon.
"This is my hangout during the hockey season," he said. "I haven't been here in a few months, but now I'm going to be here four times a week."
During Sabres games, Wiemckowski and his friends often spend hours at the pub, eating chicken wings and drinking beer.
During the lockout the crowd at Dwyer's has been mostly middle aged, a demographic Hess calls regulars. Many of them said they weren't hockey fans and that they probably wouldn't be at Dwyer's for the games.
But come Sunday afternoon, Dwyer's is hoping for a few more Sabres fans like Wiemckowski.
While the lockout has directly impacted Dwyer's, it has had less of an impact on Honey's, a sports bar on Niagara Falls Boulevard in Niagara Falls.
"(The lockout) hasn't hurt us at all," kitchen manager Tyrone Washington said.
Washington said the bar has gotten strong business from the NFL playoffs, and that on Saturdays and Sundays the place has been very busy.
He also said the timing for the lockout to end is perfect, with the NFL playoffs about to end hockey will keep bringing in customers.
But while business may not be hurting, Washington knows the end of the lockout will be a good thing for Honey's.
"During hockey games this place is jam packed," he said. "The customers are excited for it."
Tom Proctor of Niagara Falls is one of those excited customers.
"This is a great place to go for a Sabres game," Proctor said. "I watch a lot of games here and they have so many TVs that you can see the game from anywhere,"
When it came to the actual business of the lockout, most fans said it hasn't soured them on the NHL or the Sabres.
One fan at Honey's, Kyle Laughlin of Niagara Falls, said he is definitely back as a fan, and even found a positive in the lockout.
"I like the idea of the short season," Laughlin said. "I feel baseball and hockey seasons are too long."
Many fans felt the shortened 48-game season made it hard to predict how the Sabres would fair. But at least one fan thinks the Sabres are heading in the right direction.
"They're building a team around Miller," Proctor said," and that is a formula for the Stanley Cup."