October 11 2012 by Bryson Forbes
As each passing day goes by and the news about the NHL Labour dispute, officially labeled a "lockout", doesn't change it seems more and more likely that there will not be any NHL hockey this fall and potentially all winter. In Canada, this is a major story, to put it in perspective especially for people in Southern States, this is our equivalent of the NFL or MLB. This is big news north of the 49th parallel.
As TSN (Canada's version of ESPN) scrambles to fill hours and hours of weekly content it is becoming more and more evident to Canadians that another season with no professional hockey is looking more and more likely. We endured a lost season in 2004-05 and now that we are less than two weeks away from what would have been the start of the regular season, it's starting to feel like a real possibility that another season will be lost.
I could go on about the issues but that's readily available to commiserate about. With the NHL being such a fabric of the Canadian culture, I am more interested in talking about the effect the lockout will have on travel.
To set the stage there are seven Canadian NHL teams all in major cities. It's difficult to paint an optimistic picture for these seven markets. Overall Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal (the 3 largest) will be adversely affected but it will be a blip and overall not as painful as the other four. Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Ottawa will certainly feel the effect much more dramatically. With less viable options with concerts and other events to fill the rinks, concessions, local hotels, restaurants and bars will be hit hard.
The optimist in me though does feel that there could be a real opportunity for the small to mid-size markets to try to attract the hockey starved Canadians to travel and get engaged in junior hockey. In 2004-05 this didn't happen but I also think we were shocked and a little blind-sided back then and never thought we could ever lose a full NHL season. Now, having lived through it so recently, we are planning for it this time around.
I am sure you will see forward thinking junior teams start to market packages for hockey weekend getaways. Best Western, as an example, is perfectly positioned with locations across the country and in most of the junior hockey markets could work with the teams and local attractions to build some attractive packages. The great thing for Canadians is their weekend away, with accommodation, food, tickets to the junior game and everything surrounding the getaway will likely cost about the same as tickets and a night out at an NHL game.
Would you be interested in experiencing junior hockey and planning a few weekend getaways to smaller sized Canadian markets?