TAMPA, Florida - The first Lightning game of the season since the NHL lockout ended has given Downtown Tampa businesses a big boost.
Fans were very excited as they made their way to the Tampa Bay Times Forum Saturday afternoon, thrilled that hockey is back.
"Finally, we get to go to games again," said fan Paul Mancuso.
"We're really excited about hockey being back. We've been waiting and waiting for this day to come," said fan Jennifer Lopez.
Many fans made the most out of the day by heading to restaurants at nearby Channelside to grab food and drinks before the game. "We just left Hooters. We've been here since 3:00 today. Game starts at 7:00. So, yes, four hours. Yeah, absolutely. Make a day of it," said fan Anthony Scorza.
And that is also why nearby businesses are thrilled the boys are back on the ice.
Hooters general manager Robert Fisher said they were busier two hours earlier than normal.
"Very thankful. Very thankful. I know that all of us in the Channelside area have been waiting and hoping and waiting to see all of our fans return. And now that it has, everyone just has a big sigh of relief. Obviously they have a very big economic impact on this plaza, especially," said Fisher.
Fisher said the restaurant is looking at a 200 percent boost. It's an encouraging number, especially compared to the last few months without hockey.
"It's just been very challenging. Just like everybody else in the Tampa Bay area, we've seen it a little bit slower that we've liked to have seen," added Fisher.
All the foot traffic is also a welcomed sight for the GM at Taverna Opa. "I'm glad that they're back down here, because it's good to see people walk down here," said Chad Bolsinger.
The start of the sport again is seemingly bringing life back to businesses and energy back to fans.
"We are super excited. Go lightning!" said Scorza.