Share This Page

Businesses optimistic over NHL season revival

| Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
Norwin Star
Bill Waldsmith, helps Cathy Thomas of North Huntingdon, select a Pens jersey. Waldsmith, owner of Pamela's Hallmark Cards and Gifts shop in downtown Irwin, hopes to see a boost in business with the return of the NHL. Lillian DeDomenic | for The Norwin Star
Pittsburgh Penguins team captain Sidney Crosby participates in an informal workout at the Iceoplex in Canonsburg, Pa., on Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, right around what would have been the beginning of the NHL regular season. A shortened, 48-game season will start Jan. 19. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Norwin Star
Bill Waldsmith, owner of Pamela's Hallmark Cards and Gifts shop in downtown Irwin, stocks shelves with Pens gear in anticipation of a boost in business with the return of the NHL. Lillian Dedomenic | For The Norwin Star
Norwin Star
Bill Waldsmith, helps Cathy Thomas of North Huntingdon, select a Pens jersey. Waldsmith, owner of Pamela's Hallmark Cards and Gifts shop in downtown Irwin, hopes to see a boost in business with the return of the NHL. Lillian DeDomenic | for The Norwin Star

Businesses are optimistic after the National Hockey League and NHL Players' Association announced the end of the lockout and a 48-game, shortened regular season set to begin Saturday.

Bill Waldsmith, the owner of Pamela's Gifts, Cards and Sports Gear in Irwin, said sports memorabilia makes up about 25 percent of sales at the store. Some fans were looking for Penguins merchandise, but retailers felt the economic effects of the lockout, he said.

“The problem I saw was people were looking for Penguins merchandise, but the wholesalers canceled their orders,” Waldsmith said. “The availability of it was low, even though people were looking for it over Christmas.”

Waldsmith said consumers' wallets tend to be fair-weather, with high sales when Pittsburgh teams are successful, but low during slumps.

“It was tough, especially with the Steelers playing bad, and the Penguins not playing at all,” Waldsmith said. “People don't like to see Pittsburgh sports lose, and with the Penguins out of sight and out of mind, people really weren't coming.”

Since the end of the lockout, Waldsmith said more Penguins fans have been coming to his shop for hockey gear.

Preston Gorman, manager of Café Supreme, said losing the first half of the season hurt the restaurant.

“We usually have a pretty good turnout for the games, but the lockout affected us quite a bit,” Gorman said. “Even certain brands of Canadian beers we sell a lot of during hockey season, like Molson, haven't really been selling well.”

Gorman expects a large crowd during the first game, and the restaurant plans to offer beer and food specials.

“We've been printing posters and banners up, and getting ready for opening day,” Gorman said. “I think we're going to have a great turnout.”

If businesses are excited about the Penguins' first scheduled game against the Philadelphia Flyers, fans are ecstatic.

For Bonnie Langford, of Delmont, if it's associated with the Pittsburgh Penguins — or penguins in general, — Langford probably has it somewhere in her house.

“Every room in my house is Penguins,” Langford said, estimating she has at least 10,000 items in all corners of her home.

Langford has been collecting Penguins/penguin merchandise for 30 years, and has been following the Pittsburgh Penguins just as long — so it is an understatement to say she was a very happy woman when she heard the lockout was ending.

“I was thrilled — what do you think?” she said.

Penn Hills Councilman Gary Underwood has been tearing Pittsburgh hockey fans' tickets for nearly half a century.

His days as a ticket-taker go all the way back to when the Pittsburgh Hornets were playing hockey as part of the International Hockey League.

Underwood said the lockout has affected him financially — although as a multipurpose venue, Consol has hosted a variety of other events that require Underwood's services — as well as businesses near the sports arena.

“It's affected many other people who work in the area: the restaurant people and the hotels around the facility,” Underwood said.

“Really, I thought about the fans. I mean, we suffer in different ways. They suffer because (hockey) is what they purchased the tickets for. They bought the tickets and have supported the team over the years. I've lost count of how many sellout crowds they've had to date, but it really shows how a lot of Pittsburgh people and businesses support the Penguins,” he said.

Even though the Penguins are back, Waldsmith said retailers might continue to struggle with hockey merchandise sales, especially since they sell seasonal sports-related merchandise.

Soon, retailers will be preparing for baseball season, he said.

“I still think it's a little too late for the retailers, because who is going to bring in a lot of inventory for just half the season?” Waldsmith asked. “The problem is, if we don't sell it, nobody is going to want to have it sitting on the shelves all summer long.”

Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or pvarine@tribweb.com. Brad Pedersen is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bpedersen@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.