Niagara Gazette

March 30, 2008

SABRES DECLINE: Losses add up for businesses, too

By Tim Schmitt/

BY Tim Schmitt

The foghorn at HSBC Arena wasn’t the only thing Rob Szpilewski liked hearing on Sabres game nights.

The owner of the Ski Lodge on Niagara Street in Lockport enjoyed the ringing of his cash registers any time the team played during its Presidents’ Trophy-winning season.

“The best way to put it is the last two years, this was an event. Nobody missed a game. People calling each other to find out where they’d be watching the game,” Szpilewski said. “Now, people are finding other things to do with their time. A lot of the people that were out last year aren’t showing up. They’re disappointed about the team.”

Szpilewski isn’t alone in watching profits fall with the team’s win total. Local businesses aren’t buzzing like they were during last year’s playoff run. The economic effect might be just a ripple, but it’s one that has a significant impact on small businesses.

“Anybody who has the games on, whether it’s restaurants, bars, I think everybody is taking a hit. I still have some diehards that show up for every game, but last year it was such a hyped thing,” Szpilewski said.

Bob Travis of Niagara Falls delivers pizzas two or three nights a week. Although he played hockey at Niagara Falls High School, he said he’s not much of a Sabres fan. Still, Travis’ tips take a significant hit when the team is struggling.

“The Sabres are losing fans, that’s all there is to it,” Travis said. “I can see it when I go into peoples’ houses. It used to be they’d be all dressed up and you knew a game night was going to be busy. Not now.”

And even the loss of specific players can be important to some businesses. Adam Martin, who owns Dave and Adam’s Card World in Tonawanda with Dave Silver, said he got a call from Brian Campbell the morning the all-star defenseman was dealt to San Jose.

Campbell had appeared on local TV ads for the card shop and had made numerous appearances at the business.

“Brian called and said, ‘you’re not going to have a firesale on my stuff, are you?’ I said right back, ‘you know it,’ ” Martin said. “When a player leaves a team, the demand in his former city drops incredibly. So we had a big sale on his autographs. We have a couple T-shirts and a few autographed photos left, but we had to move most of the things. We set up ‘Goodbye Soupy’ kiosks and fortunately people came and bought most of it.”

Contact group sports editor Tim Schmitt

at 282-2311, ext. 2266.