When the Canucks Shoot, B.C. Businesses Score

Canucks Fan | BCBusiness
Post lock-out, we’re all back in the game

With the most recent NHL lockout behind us, many B.C. businesses are happy to also be back in the game

As the National Hockey League lockout concluded in January, B.C.’s hockey-related businesses were cautiously optimistic about fans’ return to the game. “Hockey fans are very emotional and will be slow coming back,” CEO Mario Livich of ShowtimeTickets.com told John Colebourn of The Province in early January, while a Harris-Decima poll for Maclean’s suggested that a quarter of Canadian hockey fans said they’d be watching less.

The reality has been quite different, for which businesses in B.C. are grateful.

Tania Richards, director of sales for the Granville Entertainment Group—whose venues include The Roxy nightclub and Doolin’s Irish Pub—says that hockey has brought life back to her establishments. “People have a reason to be more social and go out for drinks and a meal,” she says. At The Roxy, renowned for its post-game party atmosphere, Richards says that “weekday home hockey games have the most drastic impact where sales can potentially triple.”

Her thoughts are echoed by Julian Jones, vice-president of business development at Impark, which operates parking facilities near Rogers Arena and throughout the downtown core. “We don’t quantify specific revenues from hockey, but we’re glad to see it back. People come downtown earlier and we see a general surge in demand for parking,” he says.

Sports broadcasters are equally pleased at the return of their top property. The Vancouver Canucks’ 2012-13 season opener against the Anaheim Ducks on January 19 drew 1.471 million viewers nationally on CBC’s Hockey Night In Canada. According to the Globe and Mail’s Simon Houpt, that number was 48 per cent higher than an equivalent mid-January game in 2012 and just 11,000 viewers below the 2011-12 season high.

Here in B.C., the Canucks’ January 2013 broadcasts on Sportsnet Pacific were up one per cent from January 2012, with an average audience of 526,000 viewers, marking a 23 per cent increase from the first month of the 2011-12 season.

It’s not quite the booming 49 per cent increase the outlet enjoyed when hockey returned after losing the full season in 2004-05, but it’s a far cry from the permanent damage many predicted while the game was on ice.

“We’re very excited to have Canucks hockey back on our airwaves,” says program direction Mike Whittingham of TEAM1040 radio, which carries the Canucks’ radio broadcasts. “We are confident that the ratings will follow.”

Perhaps the most surprising is that the good news isn’t limited to hockey-mad Canada. As the Denver Post reports, numbers in the U.S. look strong as well: the first broadcast of the year on NBC drew higher ratings than every non-winter classic regular season game since1999.

For B.C. businesses, revenues from a long playoff run would be the best way to make up for the four-month lockout, and the Canucks are off to their best start in years amidst whispers that this year’s squad might be as good as the 2010-11 team that reached Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals. Maybe that’s the real question here: how badly do we need hockey in October if our team’s still playing in June?