Among this blog-writer’s many vices is a particularly enthusiastic appreciation for the National Hockey League. I’m not what Jerry Seinfeld might call a “face-painter” but I do love the game of statistics inherently built into Canada’s national pastime. I participate in annual pool competitions, trying to suss out which precise combinations of players across the league will have banner (or bust) years, building up a corps of point-getters and ultimately earning statistical bragging rights – and occasionally groaning in the agony of lady luck’s cruel ways as my top-flight scoring choice breaks an ankle two weeks into the season, never to return. It all sounds a bit like careful investment management, doesn’t it?
Well, as it turns out, Canadian businesses make a big investment in on-ice success. Hockey’s economic effects are far-ranging and worth consideration in any business plan.
In the major Canadian cities that play host to NHL teams, businesspeople often know to keep a close eye on the performance of the local boys at the rink – not just because they’re fans, but because their livelihood may be impacted significantly by the ability of the team to create business traffic. This fluctuation affects businesses in many sectors: food and beverage in particular, but also retail merchants, providers of accommodations, event promoters, and ticket brokerage.
Federal agency Statistics Canada reports that spectator sports in 2010 employed 93,500 people, 0.5% of Canada’s total payroll, and contributed C$4.5 billion to GDP. A recent report by Moody’s Analytics suggests that the return of the NHL season could provide a measurable boost to the Canadian economy over the next eight months, affecting job creation across multiple sectors as well as increased discretionary spending.
One need only look to the effects of league-wide lockouts in recent years to see the depth of effect that hockey has on Canadian businesses. In 2012, the last lockout year, advisors from BMO Nesbitt Burns estimated that cancelled games cut 0.1 per cent off of Canada’s GDP, costing the country about $1.8 billion in lost economic productivity.
In Merchant Advance Capital’s hockey-mad home city of Vancouver, the going has been especially tricky. In the golden years of their success leading up to an ultimately doomed 2011 Stanley Cup run, the Canucks effectively allowed sport-focused business owners to extend their “high season” an extra two months every year with the near-guarantee of a relatively lengthy playoff campaign and all the extra promotional and sales opportunities that went along with it. All that changed when the team’s fortunes turned sour in the following two seasons – figures from 2012, also a lockout year, indicate that local restaurant and bar owners suffered a loss of $1 million per game missed, province-wide.
As the 2014 campaign dawns, Vancouver’s faithful are being urged to believe that “Change is Coming.” Time will tell if this crafty slogan rings true, but one thing is for sure: both in BC and across Canada, business owners surely have their fingers crossed.