Last Friday, the Verizon Center should have been full. It was scheduled to be opening night for the Washington Capitals, and thousands of red-clad fans should have been unleashing the fury.
Instead, the second protracted National Hockey League lockout in less than a decade has the home of the Capitals and 29 other hockey arenas across North America sitting quietly, waiting for the league's owners and players to sort out another messy labor dispute.
The lockout, which is now a month old, has not only kept players off the ice and fans out of the stands, but it is also causing headaches for local business owners who depend on hockey crowds to feed their bottom line.
That includes the Redline Sports Bar across the street from the arena, where business manager Katie Thingelstad says they're praying for the dispute to end soon.
"We'd be doing 30 to 50 percent more business just on Capitals nights alone," she said. "Caps fans are definitely a family of people. They come in before the game. They come after the game and cheer."
Meanwhile, down the street at the Irish Channel, bartender Jerry Feeney and his coworkers are feeling the pinch. They've been making big business on Nationals and Capitals fans, and on game nights, the place is usually packed. But now that baseball season is over, the bar is cutting back and holding on.
"Usually on a hockey night, two or three of us would be working," Feeney said. "Now, there is only one."
The National Hockey League has canceled all of its regular season games through Oct. 24 and more cancellations are on the horizon as the lockout continues.