GARRIOCH: The bottom line will be a huge hit if capacity limits are not lifted in Canada

“All parties involved want these matches to be well attended.”

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There will be fans in the Saddledome when the Calgary Flames host the Ottawa Senators Thursday night.

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It’s a rare sight in an NHL track in Canada these days.

Ticket sales in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver are limited to 50 percent of the provincial governments of Alberta and British Columbia, which is better than the alternative because the senators, the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens and Winnipeg Jets are not allowed to have any fans. .

As a result of the boundaries due to the proliferation of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, the NHL began postponing several games in Canada last month, with owners and players trying to avoid a huge hit financially after playing last season in empty ice rinks.

Forgive the owners and players if they thought the days of empty ice rinks or capacity constraints were behind them. They were happy to complete a 56-game program last season, but did not enjoy the fact that there was little or no atmosphere, even with fake audience noise and loud music.

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Both sides are still paying the price for playing during the pandemic, hoping this season would help get them back on the road to economic recovery. Everything looked good until a month ago, and now it feels as if the clock has been turned back.

The bottom line is, somehow, that the restrictions in Canada will be a big hit for Hockey Related Revenues, which the owners and players share 50/50, so the NHL is essentially trying to soften the blow for both sides.

That’s why we’re seen postponements in Canada.

“A big part of it is business reasons,” Ottawa-based attorney Andy Scott, an agent at Octagon Hockey, said Tuesday. “You have the concept of hockey-related revenue and it is to everyone’s advantage to ensure this season that there is significant growth in HRR.

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“Everyone involved wants these matches to be well attended. Everyone wants us to come out of this latest wave of COVID-19 so that, first and foremost, it can be safe for everyone and so that these games can lead to revenue that will be part of the HRR calculation at the end of the season. “

If you’re wondering what constitutes HRR, it’s money that comes from ticket sales, concessions, parking, merchandise and broadcast revenue. If more than 50 percent of HRR goes to the players, then they must make up for the shortfall by paying the owners back from the block.

Players are already repaying a debt of between $ 950 million to $ 1 billion from last season.

This is the main reason why neither the owners nor the players have objected to postponed matches in Canada. The Habs, for example, have not played in the Bell Center since scoring a 3-2 shootout victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on December 16th.

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Five Habs home games this month will be rescheduled, and right now they are not scheduled to play in Montreal before starting a four-game home game against the Anaheim Ducks on January 27th.

Although Flames, Oilers and Canucks are allowed at half capacity, fans must wear masks and cannot buy food or drink. This means that the only real revenue stream comes from ticket sales and these will decrease significantly due to margins.

“If you look at HRR in the CBA, it takes up almost 20 pages, but it basically boils down to all the sources of revenue related to playing NHL games and events,” Scott said. “Compared to other leagues, the NHL has a larger share of their total revenue attributed to the playback of those games and especially the gate receipts.

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“It’s really important for these games to be played with as many fans in the seats as possible. Having these games played without fans does nothing for the owners who have to put the games on, and it does very little for the players because the HRR number is very important to them.

“It’s important for everyone to understand that it’s in everyone’s interest for these games to start when the government removes these restrictions.”

The NHL was able to buy itself time with the schedule by not taking a three-week break in February to allow players to participate in the Winter Olympics in Beijing. Many of the 104 matches that have been postponed will be played during that month.

The league hopes the variant by the end of the month will have peaked and fans will be able to return to every skating rink in Canada.

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It must be difficult for owners, general managers and players in Canada to watch games in the US and see the arenas full.

“It’s extremely frustrating for the players, and talking to some general managers over the last few weeks is frustrating for them,” Scott said. “The protocols take their toll, and so from a player’s point of view, players are very used to a cadence in the season.

“And they’re completely out of that cadence and they know they’ll be hit by a barrage of matches when they get the schedule changed. The players we have on Canadian teams are just preparing for that. When we get through February and March, we will be able to see what impact it all has on HRR. There will be an impact, I’m just not sure how big.

bgarrioch@postmedia.com

Twitter: @sungarrioch

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