Lockout body count mounting

JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 8:52 AM ET

While making the rounds in what could be called a voyage of re-discovery, Paul McIntosh wondered about the fat man in Detroit.

The London-based pro scout for the National Hockey League Dallas Stars also wondered about a lot of other people he won't be seeing soon as a result of the current lockout of NHL players.

"At first, you don't think about everybody who has been affected," McIntosh said. "Then you do. I was wondering about that vendor who goes through the crowds at Joe Louis Arena, the round guy who is a master salesman. What becomes of him? And what becomes of all those people you see in and around arenas?"

They become casualties, like the innocent victims of any war, anonymous and rarely included in the official military body-count.

The exhibition season would be in full swing now if teams were preparing for season openers that were scheduled for Oct. 13. Instead, the arenas are dark, most of them without ice.

McIntosh, a former coach and executive with the London Knights, knows a lot of people around the arenas of North America from his five years scouting for Dallas. The box office people, the parking people, the vendors and people further on the periphery of the game.

While multi-millionaire owners and millionaire players are separated by a canyon-wide divide, folks whose part-time employment is a pittance are affected deeply, too.

"A matter of $30 or $40 a night a couple of nights a week might not seem like a lot, but it's important to them all," McIntosh said. "I mean, everybody would like to have that much extra a week."

McIntosh is like everyone else in that he has no idea when hockey will resume. While his workload swings to more American League scouting along with junior and college hockey, he's a fan, too.

His Saturday nights won't be the same. It's a tradition. If he's not scouting live, he's watching on television.

"I remember way back when we'd go get some chips, pop and be ready at eight bells to watch the game on a little black and white TV," he recalled. "I'm sure a lot of people are going to miss it."

Little doubt about that. Hockey Night In Canada's boffo viewership numbers will have hit zero. Naturally, that sparked CBC layoffs.

Aside from the millions of fans, it's anyone's guess how many people besides the owners and players have been hit in the wallet by the lockout. Full and part-time, it's probably 400 people at each of the 30 arenas and double that on the periphery of suppliers, advertising people, parking lot staff, cab drivers, restaurants and on and on.

Virtually anything hockey-driven is in limbo. McIntosh mentioned a former teammate who sells board advertising at Madison Square Garden. With no hockey, there's no sales and he's out of work.

It's a small upside, but the former Buffalo Sabre has returned to his junior scouting roots.

"I was in Windsor Arena for the Knights game the other night and it was as though I'd come out of a coma," he laughed. "Nothing has changed (at the ancient stadium). But it's fun seeing some of the old faces around rinks."

McIntosh sees some benefits coming to fans around the AHL.

"It's going to be a terrific league this year," he predicts. "We (Dallas Stars) have four or five guys who'd be playing in the NHL. And so do a lot of teams."

Ex-Knights John Erskine and Dan Jancevski are among them. Erskine will be with the Houston Aeros while Jancevski, along with first-round Dallas pick Steve Ott of the Windsor Spitfires, will be with the Hamilton Bulldogs.

As for McIntosh, his contract runs till the end of December. Like all the other scouts, he'll try to keep his team abreast of all the NHLers in action for the day play resumes.

Whenever that might be.


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