Business community hopes new team will fill void left by team’s departure
St. John’s businesses want to know what David Andrews has to say.
The president and CEO of the American Hockey League speaks at a the St. John’s Board of Trade luncheon Monday. A news release from the board says Andrews will be speaking about “leadership and anticipating where the puck will be.”
Where the puck won’t be, though, is St. John’s, after plans to move the club closer to its NHL affiliate in Winnipeg will be revealed. That has some local businesses — particularly restaurants and bars — worried about what happens when the team leaves, and with it the 38 home games, not counting playoffs, drawing hundreds of people to downtown St. John’s. Team CEO Danny Williams has said he hopes to bring another franchise to the city to fill the void.
Sharon Horan, chairwoman of the Board of Trade, said she’s hopeful another team will take up residency in the city — and that she’s confident the economy won’t be hurt by the missing crowds in the meantime.
“We’re really optimistic that management of the IceCaps are going to find a solution to continue hockey here in Newfoundland and Labrador, particularly in St. John’s,” said Horan, who praised management’s “strategic decision” to own the rights to the team name and logo. “That lends itself, doesn’t it, to an opportunity to certainly keep the IceCaps in St. John’s. It might be a different team, a different farm team, but it means there’s an opportunity to have IceCaps games in St. John’s in the future.”
Horan also lauded the team’s business management, noting the IceCaps are a previous winner of the board’s top annual Business Excellence award. She added, though, that the local economy is strong enough to absorb the team’s departure — and attract a new one.
“The economy of St. John’s and the area right now is so vibrant,” she said. “We’re really confident that an AHL team, another AHL team, would be very happy to be here in St. John’s.
Craig Flynn, owner of O’Reilly’s Pub and YellowBelly Brewery, says his businesses will feel it when the IceCaps leave.
“For sure it’s going to have a negative effect,” he said. “The IceCaps, since they started, have been nothing but positive for our business. Game nights, we’d see an increase of early evening revenue, people having a bite to eat before the game. And funny enough, whether they won or lost would make a difference after. On a night where they’d win, you’d certainly see a 20 per cent increase, I would say, on business. If they lost, less of an effect.”
Not all business owners are concerned, though. Rob Moore, president of Harbour Walk Hospitality, which is building two new large restaurants on Harbour Drive, says game nights provide an earlier rush and a later rush, but with parking space at a premium downtown, sales tend to dip during game time, which levels out any game day boost.
“We’re certainly a destination-driven restaurant,” said Moore, whose Millennium Group, sister company to Harbour Walk, owns The Keg, among several other restaurants. “I’d love to have ’em around for the next 20 years, and I’m sure the powers that be will bring something in — it’s too good a market not to have an AHL hockey team — but it’s not going to make any major effect either way with us.”