Although the Winnipeg Jets are set to hit the ice to kick off the truncated 2020-21 NHL season Thursday night against the Calgary Flames, the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic mean the games will be played without fans in the building.
As league commissioner Gary Bettman told media on Monday, in a gate-driven league like the NHL, the lack of ticket sales will have a serious impact on teams’ bottom lines.
“It would be cheaper for us to shut the doors and not play,” Bettman said.
“We’re going to lose more money at the club level and at the league level by playing than by not playing.”
Jets owner Mark Chipman told 680 CJOB that resuming play despite the uncertainty of the pandemic was the right decision to make, although he agrees with Bettman that it’ll be a costly one for the league’s 31 teams.
“It’s pretty simple arithmetic. You know, as a league, more than 50 per cent of our revenues come from the game itself — from the attendance at games and the ancillary revenues that are produced at a game. And we’re going to be without those this year,” Chipman said.
“So the commissioner, I think, (was) just trying to be honest and direct that we would have been far better off not playing from a financial perspective. Having said that, I think it was the consensus of the league that we were better off forging ahead.
“It would have been very, very difficult to not play in many respects. So I feel like we’ve made the right decision, but it’s going to be a costly one.”
Chipman said True North Sports and Entertainment has been impacted by the pandemic, like all local businesses, but as live entertainment has, for the most part, been put on the backburner until COVID-19 concerns subside, they’re in an unprecedented situation.
“I don’t mean to suggest that it’s been any more challenging than any other business or circumstance that people that have had to endure this pandemic have faced,” he said.
“We are somewhat uniquely affected in that we are in the business of public assembly, for purposes of putting on concerts and family shows and hockey games, etc.
“I think when (COVID-19) hit, I told our team, we were the first to go and we’re likely going to be the last to really come online in terms of normality or what we were accustomed to.”