Local businesses score with hockey

The world’s best hockey players have left town and the new Convention Centre is no longer packed with legends of the game and endless amounts of memorabilia. Regardless, it seems Ottawa will have fond memories of NHL All-Star weekend for quite some time.

Millions of people in 150 countries were exposed not only to Ottawa’s love for hockey, but to the city as a whole, through various North American and international media.

It was a win for both the Ottawa Senators and their fan base. But local businesses may have the biggest smile of all now that the dust has cleared, according to Mayor Jim Watson.

On his blog, Watson backed up various media reports by indicating that the city brought in approximately $30 million in revenue as a result of hosting the NHL’s mid-season showcase.

For Howard Bloom of Sports Business News, the financial gain isn’t the only positive to come out of the weekend.

“Where events like this benefit is from the hundreds of reporters who come out and report on how great the city is,” Bloom says. “The real benefit is in selling the city to people.”

The media drops in en masse

Watson noted that more than 400 journalists helped to accomplish that by covering the events of the weekend.

One of those journalists was Greg Wyshynski, the creator and editor of the Puck Daddy Blog on Yahoo! Sports. He says the people of Ottawa were the big winners.

“I think this was a great endorsement for hockey fans in the city. They really created an incredible atmosphere throughout the entire weekend,” Wyshynski said. “It was great to see their treatment of [Ottawa Senators captain] Daniel Alfredsson and the other players, and their rivalry with the [Toronto Maple Leafs] really came through as well, which made things all the more exciting.”

In addition to those local residents, hockey fans from all over made the trip to Ottawa to take in the festivities.
Maple Leafs fan Daniel Fry says he was skeptical about Ottawa’s ability to host the event after attending Senators games while he was a student at Algonquin College.

“I’ve been to a couple of games when the [Leafs] came to town, and Leaf fans would take over the arena,” says Fry, who moved back home to Kincardine, Ont., last year. “That wasn’t the case at all this time around. Ottawa fans really impressed me.”

City-wide reaction

For Carleton University student Grace Protopapas, the atmosphere in the city topped all other sporting events she has seen. Meeting NHL stars Joffrey Lupul and Tyler Seguin certainly didn’t hurt her excitement level.

“The entire city was alive the whole weekend, it was great to see,” she says. “When you walked downtown there were people everywhere in hockey jerseys, so it was quite the sight.”

Dave McGuire, manager of the Heart and Crown in the Byward Market, saw many fans like Fry and Protopapas over the weekend.

“It was very busy from Wednesday right up until Sunday, so we did really well,” McGuire says. “There was definitely a boost in sales because of the fact that it was a hockey event.”

The good news doesn’t end there for the nation’s capital.

Mayor Jim Watson announced on Twitter after Sunday’s game that Ottawa may be in line for another hockey spectacle.

“Just chatted with NHL’s Gary Bettman and said it’s time for Ottawa to get the outdoor classic! He said when you get a new stadium – its coming,” Watson wrote on the social media website.

Over the years, the city has set a strong precedent for hosting events based around Canada’s favourite game.

In 2009, Ottawa welcomed the best teenage players in the world for the annual IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship. According to the Canadian Sport Tourism Alliance, the tournament attracted over 32,000 visitors to the city during its 11-day stretch. Those visitors – many of whom came from south of the border – spent in excess of $14.1 million during their stay.

“Ottawa is one of the strongest hockey markets around, both on and off the ice,” Bloom says.

Women’s world championship next

If Ottawans are still craving hockey, they will get their fix shortly. The city will host the IIHF World Women’s Hockey Championships in April 2013. In order to beat out competition from Kamloops, B.C., and St. John’s, N.L., the city needed to promise a minimum profit of $500,000.

Winnipeg was the last Canadian city to play host to the event in 2007. That tournament made a record profit of $751,706.

But hockey isn’t the only game in town.

What if the city swaps the ice with grass, and replaces the hockey pucks in favour of soccer balls? Local businesses may soon find out, as Ottawa is likely to be one of six host cities when the Women’s World Cup descends upon Canada in 2015.

But Protopapas, a former member of the Carleton Ravens women’s soccer team, isn’t convinced the city will support the event.

“I don’t think there will be nearly as much hype surrounding that event because we are such a hockey nation,” she says. “They’ll get the die-hard soccer fans, but I don’t know how far the support will go beyond that.”