Lockout cooled sales for Okotoks businesses
Business: Oilers see an increase in attendance
By: Bruce Campbell
| Posted: Wednesday, Jan 09, 2013 12:24 pm
Okotoks establishments are hoping the end of the NHL lockout will mean a boom in business while, the Junior A Oilers are hoping fans will continue to get their hockey fix at the Pason Centennial Arena.
The NHL owners locked out their players in September and after more than 100 days the labour dispute ended on Jan. 6. As a result, either 48 or 50 game schedule is expected to begin in about 10 days.
Jordan Hick, general manager of Boston Pizza in Okotoks, can hardly wait.
He said he estimated the sports bar and restaurant has lost thousands of dollars every week as a result of the NHL lockout.
“The Flames are huge for us especially with the football (NFL) season ending,” Hick said. “We were getting down to no football, no baseball, we were getting worried — we’d be showing poker on TV.”
The Calgary Flames are one of the biggest draws at the Okotoks eatery located on Southridge Drive.
“For a Flames versus Oilers or Flames versus Canucks it’s a huge draw,” Hick said. “On a weekend it’s a full house. We have probably lost, just in sales, a couple thousand a week due to the lockout.”
He said the bar tried to get creative with football, but that was starting to stall quicker than the Cincinnati Bengals’ playoff run. A meeting was scheduled for Jan. 8 at Boston Pizza to determine what kind of hockey promotions will be held.
Hick said he is optimistic the restaurant will continue to run its popular bus trips to a few of the 24 Flames home games. Hick added he hopes fans will hop on the bus and not jump off the NHL bandwagon.
“What I am worried about is people may not be interested in going down to support (NHL hockey),” Hick said. “I have heard a few fans say: ‘Sure I am going to watch hockey, but I am not about to spend my money on those guys.’”
However, Okotoks hockey fans are spending their hard-earned money on the local Junior team.
The Okotoks Junior A Oilers have seen a spike of around 10 per cent in attendance this season, which may be in part of the NHL lockout, according to the team’s business manager Dallas Hand.
“The lockout was definitely positive for us, we have seen a consistent spike in attendance,” Hand said. “I would guess we have had an extra 50 to 100 people per game this season.
“We definitely hope they will continue to support us.”
The Oilers have averaged around 800 fans a game this season.
“It’s huge,” Hand said. “Half of our annual operating budget is generated through ticket sales. An extra 50 to 100 people per game times $12 to $15 a ticket is quite substantial for us.”
He also said the lockout gave fans exposure to the quality hockey in the Alberta Junior Hockey League at substantially lower ticket prices compared to the NHL.
“Hopefully, when the NHL comes back, the fans will realize the quality hockey we have and the quality value of the ticket and keep coming back,” said Hand. “Hopefully they will bring a few friends.”
He added the fact the Oilers head coach/GM James Poole has a contending team on the ice doesn’t hurt the attendance figures either.
The NHL lockout was like the Grinch for Okotoks Classic Source for Sports.
Fans weren’t buying jerseys, mini-sticks and other souvenir items as much for Christmas gifts as they did in the past, according to store co-owner Duane Madsen.
“I brought in quite a few jerseys this year and we haven’t sold too many,” Madsen said on Jan. 7. “Fortunately, our overall hockey sales have been good. We have a strong hockey community and the community has supported us pretty well.”
He said he is hoping a run on NHL hockey souvenir material will happen now that the NHL is finally going to drop the puck.
Madsen said several souvenir suppliers were emailing him on Monday morning to see if Source for Sports were interested in carrying merchandise such as “NHL draft” caps.