VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Hugs and high fives will be off the table, but the restaurant industry is hopeful the return of playoff hockey will draw people into its socially-distanced seats.
There hasn’t been a hockey game since the league was shut down due to COVID-19 in March. The NHL announced Friday that games will kick off in Toronto and Edmonton on Aug. 1, with the Canucks set to play Aug. 2.
The entire playoff tournament is scheduled to be completed in no more than 62 days, producing a champion by the first week of October. That means fans are in for six games a day, every day.
Ian Tostenson with the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association says even though Vancouver wasn’t chosen as a hub city, bars and restaurants could see a boost.
“In the core of Vancouver big restaurants are doing about 25 per cent of the sales that they did last year, and it’s because there’s no tourism, there’s no business crowd, and there’s no draws, there’s no concerts, there’s none of that going on,” he notes.
“We need to make hockey a bit of a draw to get on transit, or take a rideshare, and go downtown.”
Although hockey at the height of summer is unprecedented, Tostenson says venues that have recently expanded their outdoor seating have a chance to get creative.
“I think we want to get out and do something, maybe it’s going to be hockey on the patios in British Columbia,” he says.
“I think we need to take this in British Columbia and put a unique twist on it, and it’s not going to be like it ever was in the past. I’m actually quite excited. We’re going to get to work next week thinking about how we can make this a celebration.”
Colin Canning with Colony Bars says their four locations have already seen sports fans trickle back in to watch the English Premier League.
“If that’s any indication, a hockey audience is much larger. There are people that are excited to watch sports out, and they seem to be slowly seeping back in to the venues,” he says.
“I think Canada’s proven that time and time again, if there’s important hockey games on, people will find the time to watch.”
Along with hockey — baseball, basketball, and soccer are set to play condensed seasons.
“It’s one of the first times where we’re going to have four sports running concurrently. I think that’s an interesting aspect. Normally, there will be small times when they overlap but there’s going to be games at 10 in the morning for all four leagues. It’s going to be a little bit hectic but for us we’re excited about that. It’s an excellent problem to have,” he says.
“It’s a challenge, and it’s a challenge we’re excited about, just the sheer amount of sports. We only have anywhere from four to eight TVs so there’s gonna be some scheduling conflicts.”