Premier Jason Kenney uses NHL game to promote province to international audience on Alberta Day

Premier Jason Kenney shared a virtual message for prospective travelers on Alberta Day Tuesday, ahead of the Canucks - Golden Knights game at Rogers Place. Credit: NHL/CBC

Premier Jason Kenney shared a message on Alberta’s 115th birthday Tuesday, ahead of puck drop for the NHL playoff game between the Vancouver Canucks and the Vegas Golden Knights.

“To hockey fans around the world, we hope you’ll follow the NHL’s lead and come to visit Alberta when you can,” Kenney said in his virtual ad, planting the seed for prospective travellers.

The message was broadcast on the scoreboard at Rogers Place in Edmonton, where the NHL’s Western Conference playoff games are being played.

“As a high-ratings event, the NHL playoffs hosted in Alberta present an excellent opportunity to showcase all Alberta has to offer,” reads a statement from the premier’s press secretary, Christine Myatt.

“In particular, it is an opportunity to reach a broad and international audience that would target Alberta as a place to invest and visit, when it’s safe to do so.”

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It’s been more than a month since 12 NHL teams entered the bubble in Edmonton.

Back in July, the premier estimated about $60 million in economic activity and up to 2,000 jobs as a result of hosting the playoffs.

“The economic impact was never going to be as big as he said,” Concordia University economics professor Moshe Lander said.

He added that’s in part because of no fans being in the arena. Lander said early exits by both the Oilers and the Flames didn’t help either.

“Any sort of interest that would be local, that would create that excitement, is kind of gone,” he said.

Using numbers from the Oilers Entertainment Group (OEG), the province said “between 1,477 and 1,914 jobs are being created during playoffs, and we will see an increase of approximately $39 million in provincial GDP.”

The Edmonton Chamber of Commerce said an extensive economic analysis won’t happen until after the playoffs are done, but so far, the bubble has been successful.

“OEG tells us that the NHL bubble appears to be exceeding the projected economic benefits.” chamber president and CEO Janet Riopel told Global News in a statement.

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“More people have come to Edmonton to work within the bubble than were initially expected, meaning more hotel stays, more meals bought locally and more local NHL spending for buses, fencing and other logistics.”

According to Mayor Don Iveson, it’s too soon to say what being a hub city will mean for Edmonton in the long run, but he called it a “national badge of honour.”

“I think there’s been a short-term economic benefit, but reputationally, I think there’s a clear divergence nationally between our two countries and it’s just been wonderful for Edmonton to be front and centre in that.”

“They’re going to be generating economic activity through hospitality food and beverage, not through say tourism or retail,” Lander explained.

“Better than nothing I guess, but it’s not going to tilt the Alberta economy in any way.”

The province noted that Tuesday’s Alberta Day message was “not specifically billed.”

“We continue to work collaboratively with the NHL to identify strategic opportunities to get our message out to a variety of audiences,” Myatt said.

Ultimately, Lander said Kenney has a small window left before the world stops watching, so he may as well promote the province while he can.

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“He’s not reaching anybody really that doesn’t already know Edmonton exists.”

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