Frustrated Lightning fan sets NHL lockout protest Saturday

BRANDON — Jay Tregler is such a huge Lightning fan that he has organized two protests against the NHL lockout.

The 39-year-old Seffner resident also said if the league loses a second season in eight years to labor strife, he just might cancel the season tickets he has held since 1996.

And you know what? Some Tampa Bay players said they wouldn't blame him.

"No, not at all," defenseman Sami Salo said Friday after a skate at the Ice Sports Forum. "I feel bad for the fans that they have to go through this again."

"I wouldn't blame them," goaltender Mathieu Garon said. "It must be disappointing."

That disappointment probably heats up today. The Lightning was supposed to open its 20th anniversary season tonight at Florida.

Instead, Salo will be at his son's hockey game, forward Tom Pyatt joked he'll be playing NHL13 online and coach Guy Boucher will be sorting through the information he and his assistants have gathered on opponents.

"We've been looking pretty much at every team's power play and penalty kill," Boucher said. "We've been trying to gather as much information as we could, so basically we're going to have more information than we ever had on our team and the opponents. That's why I don't want this to be a vacation."

•••

So far, the league has canceled the first two weeks of the regular season. That includes four Lightning games, three at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

No formal talks between the league and the players association on a new collective bargaining agreement are scheduled, and more game cancellations are expected next week.

That means between 600 and 800 part-time employees who work at the Times Forum on game days are in limbo, and there's a lot less foot traffic for area businesses.

"It's going to have a big impact," said Dave Mangione, a partner at Hattricks Tavern near the Times Forum. "The games are a huge draw. I'm not terribly upset, but in a month and a half, if this is still going, I will have much more disdain for the situation."

A lost NHL season could cut Hattricks' revenue by 20 percent, Mangione said.

It is a lament Tregler, an IT manager at an electrical supply distributor, took to heart when organizing his fan protest, which starts at 6 tonight at the Times Forum and later will move to the nearby Channelside district, where a dinner is planned to help support eateries that will miss game-day business.

"Just to show somebody does care about it," Tregler said.

•••

It is difficult for Salo to believe the NHL will lose the season to a lockout, as it did in 2004-05. But he knows fans won't care who is at fault if the owners and players can't figure out how to split $3.3 billion in revenue, which is the basic disagreement.

"I've talked to the parents around my kids' hockey and soccer teams, and it's not fun," Salo said. "They're looking at maybe supporting some other sports."

Asked if there is a message he wants to send to fans, Salo said, "That's a tough question to answer. For sure, we feel sorry for the fans, but we can't go with what happened in '04 and let (the owners) dictate everything.

"It's unfortunate, but the NHL chose to take this way, and like (players association executive director Donald Fehr) has said, we could have started the season with the old (agreement) and worked our way into a new one."

That is little consolation for Tregler, who Tuesday sat in his car during his lunch hour to watch ESPN2's telecast of a Russian KHL game on his tablet. He also bought a KHL jersey.

"I'm not spending my money on the NHL," Tregler said. "I like the KHL product, so I'm going to put my money into the KHL right now."

.fast facts

NHL lockout protest

Lightning season ticket holder Jay Tregler has organized another protest for tonight. It starts at 6 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, then moves to the nearby Channelside district for dinner to support businesses.

Frustrated Lightning fan sets NHL lockout protest Saturday 10/12/12 [Last modified: Friday, October 12, 2012 11:55pm]

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