(The Canadian Press)

(The Canadian Press)

NHL’s Canadian hubs offer little economic benefit, but morale boost is valuable: experts

Games are slated to start Aug. 1 with six Canadian teams qualifying for the 24-team resumption of play

A plan to operate NHL game hubs in Edmonton and Toronto could draw hundreds of hockey players and staff to both Canadian cities, but business experts say their presence won’t give a huge boost to local economies.

While hundreds of people could be employed in positions relating to the games and hubs — such as security jobs, rink staff, food services and hotel housekeeping — the financial benefit of two bubble communities under tight seal would be “modest” at best, suggested Bank of Montreal chief economist Douglas Porter.

“When you think of how many tourists would normally be in Toronto during peak tourist season, I’m quite sure this is less than one per cent,” he said.

“The reality is, it’s not going to move the needle.”

But Porter, a lifelong hockey fan, said he anticipates a “reasonably meaningful positive” morale boost to Canadian sports fans who’ve been eagerly anticipating players returning to the ice in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The games are slated to start Aug. 1 with six Canadian teams qualifying for the 24-team resumption of play. No fans will be in the seats.

Edmonton and Toronto were confirmed as the NHL’s hub cities on Friday night.

“The fact that part of our world is getting back to some kind of normal will help reinforce the sense that things, generally, are moving in that direction and could help support the recovery,” Porter said.

The gradual comeback of major sporting events has drawn plenty of interest in recent weeks, with debates raging over the risks of putting players back into the games, even if spectators aren’t allowed in the facilities.

Further questions have been raised over whether rigorous testing is enough to prevent outbreaks within the isolated community, which could potentially throw the whole plan into a costly disarray.

Many of these factors make placing a value on hockey’s return especially difficult.

Michael Naraine, a professor at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont., said the largest amount of money is on the line at large corporations, which he said is driving the return of major sporting events.

“The primary revenue driver for sports is broadcasting,” said the assistant professor of digital sport management and marketing.

“They need television advertisers come back. The league itself needs to gain its revenue from NBC and Sportsnet here in Canada.”

Politicians have preferred to emphasize the positive aspects of a deal with the NHL.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney eagerly promoted Edmonton as the ultimate hub city for the hockey league, posting videos on Twitter that prominently featured the Rocky Mountains and other popular destinations in the province.

Naraine said those public expressions by leaders are more an attempt to “pander” to their constituents than actually drive any meaningful economic impact. He said this is especially the case in Edmonton.

“Having major events come to town allows them to beat their chests and say, ‘We exist. We’re on the map. Come look at us,’” he said.

“But the fact that the hub city will be in Edmonton is no different than whether the hub city would be in Toronto or Vancouver or elsewhere. It’s not going to significantly drive tourism all of a sudden.”

Patrick Rishe, a sports professor at Washington University in St. Louis, said he sees value in showcasing a lesser known Canadian city on broadcast television with “beauty shots” of the locale. He said it may also sit well with NHL executives.

“You never know,” he said. “Doing and serving a good deed for the league now, this could pay dividends down the road.”

Any semblance of a regular hockey season would be welcomed by Dana Parris, owner of the Lockeroom sports bar in Barrie, Ont.

Even though her business is over 100 kilometres away from downtown Toronto, she anticipates the excitement would reverberate to her customers.

“If we could have sports come back and we hit Stage 3 (of Ontario’s COVID reopening plan) around the same time, I will probably stop crying myself to sleep,” she said.

“If those two come together it’s just going to be the most beautiful thing.”

David Friend, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

NHL

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Michele Babchuk with Premier John Horgan and Clerk of the Legislature Katy Ryan-Lloyd. (BC Legislature)
Babchuk sworn in to B.C.’s 42nd Legislature

Oath ceremony held with MLAs connecting through video

Over 6,000 customers were affected by the power outage that started on Nov. 17. (BC Hydro photo)
BC Hydro crews worked 16 hour days to turn the North Island’s power back on

BC Hydro runs one transmission line to Northern Vancouver Island so there was no backup line.

U’mista Cultural Centre is closed to the public until further notice, as of Nov. 23, 2020. (Zoe Ducklow photo)
U’mista closed until further notice due to new restrictions

North Island on high alert against COVID-19

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. daily COVID-19 cases hits record 941 on Tuesday

Further restrictions on indoor exercise take effect

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s inability to manufacture vaccines in-house will delay distribution: Trudeau

First doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in first few months of 2021, prime minister says

Beaver Creek RCMP Cpl. Robert Drapeau, left to right, Gary Bath, Lynn Marchessault, Payton Marchessault, Rebecca Marchessault and Tim Marchessault pose in this recent handout photo near the Canada-U.S. border crossing near Beaver Creek, Yukon. A family reunion trip for the woman from Georgia that left them stranded ended on a bright note when Bath drove them to the Alaskan border following an appeal for help. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Gary Bath *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Help from B.C. man allows American family to reunite in Alaska

Lynn Marchessault drove from Georgia to the Alaska border to join her husband, who serves in U.S. military

(Pixabay.com)
Man, 28, warned by Kootenay police to stop asking people to marry him

A woman initially reported the incident to police before they discovered others had been popped the question

Winston Blackmore (left) and James Oler (right) were sentenced on separate charges of polygamy this week in Cranbrook Supreme Court.
No more charges expected in Bountiful investigation, special prosecutor says

Special prosecutor says mandate has ended following review of evidence from Bountiful investigations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

(Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Refuse to follow B.C.’s mask mandate? Face a $230 fine

Masks are now required to be worn by all British Columbians, 12 years and older

Parksville’s French Creek Harbour experienced a diesel spill on Nov. 23 after a barge and fishing vessel collided. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Coast Guard cleans up diesel spill in Parksville’s French Creek Harbour

Barge carrying fuel truck collides with fishing vessel

Stock photo
Senior from Gibsons caught viewing child porn sentenced to 10 months

74-year-old pleaded guilty after police seized 1,500-2,500 images

Most Read