WASHINGTON – D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray says he’s asked Capitals owner, Ted Leonsis, to help end the NHL lockout now in its fourth week.
“We’ve urged him, whatever he can do, whatever influence he can wield on this, let’s get this over with,” Gray says.
Leonsis wasn’t able to offer much help, says the mayor.
“He indicated that the people who are speaking on this are the leaders at the National Hockey League, that he is not going to speak on it and I understand that.”
But Gray says he’s concerned that any prolonged lockout that erodes further at the season would have a major negative impact on the local economy.
“If it wears on, we know we’ll hear it from the business community, because there are so many restaurants that sprung up because of the Verizon Center,” Gray says.
As for what Caps games mean to the city immersed in its first baseball postseason in 33 years, Gray added, “They are an important contribution to the electric atmosphere we have downtown and quite frankly the economy of the city.”
On Friday, which would have been opening night for the Capitals, members of the community planned to show their support for businesses near the arena by wearing Caps gear and patronizing the bars and restaurants.
On a Facebook page dedicated to the event, called The Opening Night That Isn’t, organizer Matthew Witting writes, “The owners keep us out of the arenas, the players abandon us for Europe, but our watering holes will never lock us out!”
It’s not just D.C. where mayors are concerned about the lockout.
U.S. Conference of Mayors CEO and Executive Director Tom Cochran issued a statement calling on both sides to resolve their differences and get back on the ice for the good of the communities that support the teams.
“Mayors understand this is about more than hockey. This is about our small business owners: restaurateurs, hotel managers, concession workers and people in our cities that need the NHL to make ends meet. Local businesses and their employees depend on NHL seasons and cannot survive without the thousands of customers NHL games drive to their districts every autumn and winter. In this tough economic time when our constituents are already financially stretched, another cancelled season could spell disaster for the average middle-class worker. We encourage all parties to work together to find a speedy resolution.”