BUFFALO, N.Y. - Most everywhere Lou Billittier turns these days, the Buffalo restaurateur is reminded of the NHL lockout, and its impact on his blue-collar, sports-mad town where Dominik Hasek became a star and the French Connection is still revered.
Billittier misses the familiar faces of Sabres players having their traditional game-day lunch at his restaurant, Chef's. He recalled a recent conversation he had with his seafood supplier, who's struggling because he also provides salmon and chicken wings to the Sabres arena, the First Niagara Center.
And then there are the arena's idled, part-time employees who stop in looking for work. With his own business down 15 percent, Billittier can only turn them away because he's concerned whether there's enough work for his staff.
"It's amazing the trickle-down effect," Billittier said, standing in his lobby, not far from Chef's "The French Connection" room.
"It bothers me, not only because we're down, but it affects everything. Our community out-reach, we can't donate to the people we normally donate to. It's brutal."
From south Florida to Vancouver, Montreal to Anaheim, a wide array of businesses located in the NHL's 30 markets have taken a significant hit because of the lockout, which is now in its fourth month and has wiped away 625 games. On Thursday, the league canceled all games through Jan. 14.
Joe Kasel, owner of the Eagle Street Grille in St. Paul, Minn., last month wrote a letter expressing his concerns to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
"I had to look 32 of 48 employees in the eyes and inform them that I no longer can afford to keep them on staff," Kasel wrote.