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Mayor Coleman disappointed in both sides of hockey lockout, hopes mediation works

With the NHL lockout hurting St. Paul restaurants and shops, the mayor calls for action to get the teams back on the ice.

With St. Paul businesses continuing to lose business because of the NHL lockout, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman is upset at both sides for not getting a deal done.

The season was scheduled to begin in mid-October, but all games through Dec. 14 have already been canceled, as the two sides remain at odds over revenue sharing, salary arbitration and free-agency rules.

The two sides have now agreed to mediation, to start Wednesday, and Coleman says in a statement that it had better work:

“I am extremely disappointed that the NHL and the NHLPA are still unable to reach a labor agreement to save what is left of the 2012-2013 NHL season. We know with certainty that the lockout has already resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue for businesses in downtown Saint Paul, many of whom rely very heavily on hockey season to make ends meet. The time to end the lockout is now. I urge both sides to reach an agreement when they meet with the federal mediator.”

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While the negotiators in New York aren’t looking for input from Midwestern mayors, Coleman’s point is that more is at stake than salaries and revenue for owners and players.

Businesses on the west side of downtown St. Paul and along West 7th Street rely on the Wild crowds to fill restaurants, bars, shops and parking ramps for 45 games a year. For many, the hockey crowds are the difference in making a profit, city officials say.

“We’ve heard from enough people to know that there’s already been hundreds of thousands in lost revenue,” said Coleman’s spokesman Joe Campbell. “St. Paul has only one of the four major professional sports teams in the region, [pro football, baseball and basketball are in Minneapolis] so when hockey is out we feel a dramatic effect on the downtown economy.”

Campbell said that it’s easy to get caught up thinking about the hundred of millions of dollars involved in the negotiations, it’s important to remember that people in St. Paul, as well as in the other cities, are being adversely affected, too.

“There are real-world implications when this drags on,” he said.

As Coleman had warned in October: “The business owners cannot survive another year with a lockout.”