It’s official. For the first time in more than 40 years no Canadian team will be around for the NHL playoffs and the bottom line is it will be bad for business, say experts
The Winnipeg Jets, Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks had already fallen short of the post-season quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup. The Ottawa Senators were the final team to be eliminated on Wednesday night.
The last time all Canadian teams were shutout from playoff action was in 1970.
The disappointing results will not only be felt by fans across the country but for Rogers Media which signed a whopping $5.2-billion, 12-year deal for rights to NHL games.
Last year, when five Canadian teams reached the first round of the playoffs ratings jumped 36 per cent over the 2014 post-season’s match-ups, when only Montreal advanced into the playoffs, according to Numeris audience data.
But ratings slid in the final two rounds as Canadian teams dropped out, with the average audience of 2.39 million for the final round falling 12 per cent from the average audience of 2.72 million viewers for the 2014 final round.
“In 2016 when there will be no Canadians teams, for sure compared to last year Rogers is going to see a significant drop off in viewers,” said Marvin Ryder, an assistant professor at McMaster University’s DeGroote School of Business, adding that there will be a drop of 35 per cent in viewership.
“One Canadian team in 2014, a good year last year, and now no Canadian teams this year, this is certainly not what Rogers thought they were getting.”
DeGroote said Rogers could consider playing up the Canadian talent on American teams to compensate for the lack of local teams in the playoffs.
“So rather than cheer on the Pittsburgh Penguins and make them your home team for the playoffs, cheer on Sidney Crosby,” he said.
Global News reached out Rogers Media for comment but did not receive a response.
And it’s not just networks that could take a hit this year.
Vijay Setlur, a sports marketing professor at York University, says the implications of all seven Canadian teams missing the playoffs with have far-reaching consequences for several stakeholders.
“The franchises and the owners will take a direct hit to their bottom line because they won’t be generating the $1-1.5 million in extra gate revenue per playoff game,” he said, adding that things like concession sales, merchandise sales, and parking will also take a hit.
Setlur also predicts ratings could fall by “20 per cent or more” without a Canadian hometown team in the post-season.
“They usually reserve ad inventory for the playoffs, they don’t sell all their ad inventory upfront,” he said. “They keep that inventory on hold just for the purpose of being able to charge more if there is a popular team or matchup in the playoffs.”
The impact of a Canadian absence from the playoffs could also spell trouble for restaurants and bars looking to cash in on local fans, said Tony Chapman, a brand expert with tonychapmanreactions.com.
“It’s going to have a huge impact,” Chapman said. “There is already a huge number of diehard fans who are going to watch regardless but you are going to want those swing fans as well who might only watch if their team is in the playoffs.”
“Restaurants really thrive when you have both groups there, when there’s a contagious energy in the bar.”
Chapman points to the success of last year’s Toronto Blue Jays as swarms of fans packed bars and restaurants across the city to watch the Jays who made a deep post-season run to the American League Championship Series.
“Having your local team in the playoffs means everything,” he said. “If even they lose in round one you still going to bring some people in because they are invested in it.”