ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Oh what a difference two months can make.
In early January, the city of St. Paul and, especially, businesses that stand in the shadow of the Xcel Energy Center were languishing under the lasting effects of the NHL lockout.
On Saturday, the 'hockey city' streets couldn't have been busier with an estimated 40,000 people attending the boys' high school hockey tournament and the Let's Play Hockey Expo.
"It's been spectacular. It's been one of the biggest tournaments we've had in the 10 years we've been open," said Kevin Geisen, co-owner of Eagle Street Grille.
Geisen estimates his restaurant -- which sits directly across from the Minnesota Wild's hockey home -- lost about 25 percent of its annual revenue due to the lockout.
"It just changes everything. It's a 180 degree difference," he said.
At one point, the restaurant was forced to lay off three-quarters of its staff to offset the lack of customers. But the month of March is bringing new hope: in the form of lots of hockey games, big-name concerts and a pretty popular St. Paul holiday: St. Patrick's Day.
"They call it 'March Madness' for a reason," Geisen said.
Sam Bergstrom with Tom Reid's Hockey City Pub couldn't agree more.
"Thankfully the revenue that the tournaments bring in during the month of March -- everything that goes on in the Xcel Center, when they pack it full of concerts and games -- is really helping to make up for what we lost," Bergstrom said.
In addition to the boys' high school hockey tournament, the city is hosting the Red Baron WCHA Final Five Hockey Tournament, seven Minnesota Wild hockey games, and concerts with Maroon 5, Bob Seger and Kid Rock, Pink and Rihanna. The city is also planning on a St. Patrick's Day Block Party on Saturday, March 16.
(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)