Hockey not in Canada: $40-million loss predicted for Vancouver if lockout lasts

A winter without the NHL will not only mean disappointed Canucks fans but millions of dollars in lost revenue for Vancouver’s many sports bars and hotels.

“It affects so many businesses that I think some might actually shut down because of it,” said Bryan Maguire, kitchen manager at G Sports Bar and Grill. Other games like NFL football and soccer will keep the bar afloat, but “it’s a good 20, 30 per cent of our business we’re losing just from the hockey lockout.”

The effects could last longer than one season, Maguire said. Fed-up fans who remember the 2004-2005 cancelled season could decide to support other leagues instead.

The 2004 lockout nearly sunk the Kingston Taphouse and Grill on Richards Street. On a regular season Monday night, the bar does about $5,000 in sales, but up to $50,000 during a seven-game playoff round, totalling almost $400,000 per season, said manager Ryan Craig. “It’s our bread and butter,” he said. He and owner Fred O’Hagan are holding back on hiring and worry their staff will have to get second jobs.

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“Cities’ economies and people’s livelihoods are at risk,” Craig said. At the Shark Club, where 400 fans regularly cram in to watch Canucks games on four huge screens, some staff are already being laid off in advance of Saturday night’s predicted lockout.

Hotels will also feel the pinch, said Suzanne Allemeier, chair of the Hotel Association of Vancouver and general manager at the Marriott Residence Inn. During the last lockout, hotels started advertising in other markets and promoting winter activities in the Lower Mainland, but it didn’t make up the gap. Hockey brings in not only out-of-town players, but those from outlying areas who spend the night after a game.

“We all know we’re a hockey city,” Allemeier said. “For the pre-season and regular season, the draw the Canucks provide to tourism in Vancouver is huge. [A lockout] would have a negative effect on hotel community.”

For a night of entertainment – whether concerts, cultural events or sports – consumers spend an average of $50, on top of the cost of tickets, said Charles Gauthier, director of the Vancouver Downtown Business Improvement Association.

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A lockout won’t be “devastating” but according to market research conducted by the organization, one NHL game alone brings a million dollars into the city. With 41 home games during the regular season that adds up to a $41 million loss.

Even the B.C. Lottery Corp. stands to lose $16 million, since NHL hockey represents 30 per cent of all online and retail betting in the province.

There’s also the “intangible” loss from Vancouver dropping off the media radar from a lack of televised games, and Canucks memorabilia retailers and cab companies face losses if there’s a shortened season, said Tourism Vancouver’s Walt Judas.

There are 525 taxis in Vancouver, and each makes around $50 extra during Canucks home games because of the added rush when the game ends around 10 p.m, said Carolyn Bauer, spokeswoman for the Vancouver Taxi Association and general manager of Yellow Cab company.

Without an NHL season, it could mean more than $1 million in losses, not counting traffic from pub patrons who watch every televised game.

“It’s going to be terrible,” Bauer said. “We look for this business, we beg for this business.”

But experts say the net effect could be small overall, as people divert their disposable income to other sports and cultural pursuits.

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“At the macroeconomic level, things shift around a little bit,” said sports business commentator and broadcaster Tom Mayenknecht.

“If people are saving money on beer and meals watching Canucks hockey, they might spend more and make an occasion out of it to watch baseball and other sports, or spend more on movies and nights out and concerts, especially given the lineup of concerts coming this fall,” he said.

Langara College accounting and finance instructor Aziz Rajwani said proximity matters. Businesses close to Rogers Arena will suffer the most because they’re more likely to rely on sporting events for their income, but overall things even out.

“If you look at the economy citywide or provincewide, there’s no real impact,” as Canucks fans spend their money elsewhere. “After all, sports is just entertainment,” he said.

A lockout could bring some gains. Bars far from the downtown stadium could see an uptick in business, and the same goes for cinemas, theatre and the arts. But will Canucks fans go to the symphony instead?

Maybe, said Alan Gove, vice-president of marketing at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. “Certainly we have some audiences in common but not to a large degree.”

He said the arts could benefit from corporate sponsorship and advertising, as well as “a new top-of-mind” awareness of the symphony, opera or theatre as an option for weekend entertainment.

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Movies will “absolutely” get a boost, said Pat Marshall, Cineplex spokeswoman. Just as fewer movie tickets are sold during must-watch games, “we certainly would anticipate with the loss of entertainment on the NHL front, audiences will seek entertainment elsewhere,” at movie theatres across the country, Marshall said.

A lockout could be a “shot in the arm,” said Sean Heather, owner of several non-sports establishments, mostly in Gastown.

“An awful lot of money gets spent on hockey in this town. Without it, there’s more money left out in the economy and different ways to spend it. The game’s not taking a big chunk because there is no game.”