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End of NHL stalemate good news for Mid-Mon Valley businesses

| Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

The store front in the front of Buzzy Byron's Hometown Sports in Monessen stood bare for awhile.

The Steelers items were gone along with the team's lost season, which ended late last month without a playoff run.

But by Monday evening, Byron was filling the showcase windows with Penguins jerseys and hats. After a lockout that cancelled half the season, the NHL is returning.

That's good news for retailers and businesses that were feeling a double whammy at the cash register – an early end to the Steelers season and no Penguins season to count on for merchandise and related sales.

Buzzy Byron said the return of the NHL will fill a void left because the Steelers uncharacteristically missed the playoffs.

“Naturally, it helps out because you have the Steelers losing,” Byron said. “Usually, you count on five to six more weeks of sales with the Steelers. That's your extra income. When the Steelers missed the playoffs, you go, ‘Oh, boy.'”

Byron said he orders team merchandise a year in advance to have it in time for the proper sports season.

“With them not in the playoffs, I was sitting on all of this merchandise,” Byron said. “We have half of an (NHL) season left. We won't get the sales that we usually do, but it will definitely help.”

Byron said the expected regular season schedule – which will feature only conference games – will help build a playoff-like atmosphere to the season. That will generate additional fan interest, Byron noted.

“It will be like if the Steelers played just Baltimore, Cincinnati and Cleveland – the games you really want to see,” Byron said. “It will make the season more intense for the fans.”

Byron said retailers will be glad to see the NHL season return.

“You don't want to lose any of the seasons,” Byron said. “You want to push that stuff out the door. Hopefully hockey will bail us out.”

Bob Kosh, owner of Emporium II in Charleroi, said, “This was the worst Christmas season for me in 41 years.”

Still, he was optimistic as NHL players and management worked in the last week to hammer out a new labor agreement.

“I'm hoping the Penguins will help,” Kosh said. “I was very optimistic Saturday. I put in all my windows Penguins items, not even knowing if they were going to come back. I'm very optimistic that it will make a difference.”

Brian Vanard, owner of Redd Dawg's All Star Clubhouse in Rostraver Township, said is “ecstatic” about the return of NHL hockey.

He gives away game jerseys and tickets to patrons to lure crowds to his place.

A hockey night brings in likely 30 percent more revenue over a normal night, Vanard said.

“You get the same thing with the Steelers, but hockey is three games a week as compared to one Sunday,” Vanard said. “And the way the Steelers schedule has gone in recent years, with so many 8:30 Sunday and Monday night games, has hurt because people have to go to work the next day.”

Vanard said the void left with the Steelers early season exit and the NHL lockout “hurt us a minimum of 10 percent.”

“I want to send (Mike) Tomlin a bill and I was getting ready to send (Dan) Bylsma a bill,” Vanard said jokingly, referring to the Steelers and Penguins head coaches.

Vanard said the lockout had an effect on the economy throughout the region.

“You hear all of this stuff about how this lockout has hurt the City of Pittsburgh, but they forget that southwestern Pennsylvania is a multi-county area,” Vanard said.

“No one talks about how it affects Westmoreland County and Washington County and Butler County. The Penguins are a western Pennsylvania team, not just a Pittsburgh team.”

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or

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