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Blackhawks fans, shops cheer end to NHL lockout

(MCT) — As soon as he heard the Chicago Blackhawks may soon be lacing up to play, Jim Boffa took his family out for a celebratory lunch near the United Center to toast the end of a 113-day NHL lockout.

"I didn't think it was going to happen," the 52-year-old Northbrook man said as he stood beside his wife and three children inside the Palace Grill restaurant on Madison Street.

On Sunday, business owners expressed relief while Blackhawks fans rejoiced after hearing that the NHL and players association reached a tentative deal on a new collective bargaining agreement.

The lockout has knocked the wind out of many establishments in the vicinity of the United Center. Palace Grill lost at least $75,000 over the past few months, owner George Lemperis said. Despite the damage, businesses are grateful that a partial hockey season will be salvaged.

"Any time there's an extra 20,000 people down the street, that's good for everyone," said Matt Doherty, general manager at WestEnd Bar.

At Clark Street Sports, a store that sells Blackhawks and Bulls memorabilia, the lockout's end means more sales and more work for employees, cashier Jose Salazar said.

On nongame days, one or two people might work at the small shop, but as many as five employees are around when professional sports teams play at the arena, he said.

"I'm not a big hockey fan, (but) I'm just excited to get a lot more hours," Salazar said.

Inside Johnny's IceHouse, a hockey rink west of the United Center, some children and adults sported Blackhawks hats, jerseys and T-shirts as they watched 10- and 11-year-old boys play hockey.

Many parents expressed enthusiasm about the end of the work stoppage, but some also said they felt their children lost out over the past few months.

"All these kids look up to the NHL players so much," said Brent Bainter, 39, as he watched his 10-year-old son's hockey team on the ice. "When you don't get a chance to see them play for half a year, it's kind of a bummer."

After the match ended, Alex Lazzerini, 11, who has played hockey since he was 2, said he was nervous the Blackhawks might not play this season.

"Now, I'm hoping to watch them win the Stanley Cup again," he said with a smile.

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