MONTREAL - Hockey lovers are holding onto the possibility the latest NHL labour dispute could come to a quick end.
Fans were struggling Sunday with the prospect of another prolonged stoppage that would cut into their favourite winter pastime.
"It's a shame, because in the end it's the fans that are the biggest losers," said 54-year-old Jean-Pierre Lacombe.
The NHL locked out its players at midnight Saturday and there were no formal talks held in the final three days before the previous agreement expired.
It's league's fourth work stoppage in just over two decades.
William Gainsbury, who works at the parking lot across from the Montreal Canadiens' arena, the Bell Centre, said he's not sure who to blame. But he said both sides must step up and work out an agreement before games get cancelled.
"Hopefully the players and the owners, with all their lawyers, can work it out," he said.
The first exhibition games could be scrapped next week.
The possibility of having the regular season start as scheduled on Oct. 11 will become less and less likely with each passing day.
If the lockout ends up cutting into the season, it will also hurt the bottom line of many small businesses.
Cleophad Lobnson, a Montreal taxi driver, said he depends on Habs games for much of his business during the winter months.
"On game nights it brings in a lot of people from the city, and from outside the city," he said.
Another fan in Toronto, Katharine Galaher, said the league should remember people who work in bars and restaurants that make their money off hockey games.
"They need to think of the well-being of everyone else that's losing their jobs for the season," she said.
Brandon Bryant, a 41-year-old in Toronto, said he usually hosts special gatherings to watch hockey games, which the lockout puts at risk.
"It hurts a lot," Bryant said.
"Our friends and families come over and they watch hockey and we have hockey parties at our house and it's sad that we don't get to do that right now."
Gainsbury said his appreciation for the sport has gone sour over the past ten years as salaries and ticket prices have continued to climb.
"It's become too corporate," he said.
"I don't think that people these days really feel that their team appreciates them as much as they appreciate their team."
A 103-day lockout in 1994-95 forced the cancellation of 468 games and delayed the season's start until Jan. 20.
The 2004 lockout began Sept. 16 and wasn't settled until July 13 — making the NHL the first North American sports league to ever cancel an entire season over a labour dispute.
An 11-day strike in April 1992 also caused 30 games to be postponed.
- with files from William Campbell in Toronto