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The NHL stopped Sunday. Everything else kept moving.
Buffalo Sabres players, during their first day without a job, loaded coolers with beer and partied at the Bills game. The owners' bank accounts continued to accumulate interest. Fans read about the lockout and moved on to their fantasy teams.
It wasn't a surprise. The world has already survived two Gary Bettman-led lockouts, so there's no reason to think this third stoppage will lead to Armageddon.
Eventually, the absence of the NHL will be noticed by fans, players and owners. But the impact of the league shutting its doors will take time to be felt:
. Fans don't risk missing a regular-season game until Oct. 11.
. Owners will lose ticket sales if preseason games are canceled next week, but those are minuscule in the grand scheme. Under a policy announced Sunday, the Sabres won't have to give refunds for regular-season tickets until Nov. 1.
. Players won't miss a paycheck until late October, plus they have a huge deposit coming next month. Because salaries are tied to revenue, part of the players' contracts are withheld until it's determined whether the league made or lost money. Last season's escrow payments, reportedly worth 8 percent of the salaries, will be returned to the players.
In the meantime, the NHL and the NHL Players' Association are ready to fight for the fans' support. Both sides opened the lockout with a public relations blitz.
The league issued a release explaining its stance early Sunday morning.
"Despite the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement, the National Hockey League has been, and remains, committed to negotiating around the clock to reach a new CBA that is fair to the players and to the 30 NHL teams," the statement read. "This is a time of year for all attention to be focused on the ice, not on a meeting room. The league, the clubs and the players all have a stake in resolving our bargaining issues appropriately and getting the puck dropped as soon as possible. We owe it to each other, to the game and, most of all, to the fans."
Eight teams followed by posting open letters to their backers on team websites.
"While we remain optimistic that our Panthers will open the 2012-13 season as planned on Oct. 13, I also want to assure you that the work stoppage will not deter our organization from fulfilling its responsibilities to our fans and our community," Florida General Partner Cliff Viner wrote. "Certainly we know that nothing can re-create the excitement of live Panthers hockey ... but that isn't going to stop our staff from showcasing the love and pride that exists for our franchise."
The NHLPA followed with a video that reminds people the owners locked out the players, who want to play while they negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement. The league shut down at midnight Saturday when the previous CBA expired.
"As players we understand that the people that suffer the most are the fans," said Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby, who is joined on the 3-minute video by Chicago's Jonathan Toews and Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog, among others.
For the fourth straight day, the league and NHLPA failed to negotiate. There has been no announcement on when formal talks will resume.
The Sabres have instituted a ticket refund policy in case the lockout doesn't end quickly. Season-ticket and mini-pack holders will have two options once games are canceled:
1. Leave their payments with the Sabres and collect 4 percent interest, which will be calculated from the point at which a particular game is canceled until a new CBA is reached. The interest will be placed on the fans' SabreBucks card or in their mini-pack account.
2. Request a refund, which will be issued at the beginning of the following month. For example, the money for any preseason games canceled in September will be returned Oct. 1.
Refunds are only available for games that are canceled. If fans cancel their entire package, they relinquish the rights to their seats. Full policy information is available at Sabres.com.
Thankfully for fans, the lockout hasn't reached that kind of impact - yet.
"We need to play hockey," Sabres center Tyler Ennis said. "That's what everyone wants, so hopefully things can get done quick."

email: jvogl@buffnews.com