As both a hockey fan and local business owner, Al Mattice is enthused to see the 2012/13 NHL season finally begin on Jan. 19.
“As soon as hockey starts, hopefully on the 19th, people are watching hockey, talking hockey, so they’re buying hockey,” the owner of Twilight Framing & Sports Gallery said this week.
Sales were down in November, which he admits made him a bit nervous, but by December things picked up in light of Christmas. With NHL players soon to be back on the ice, he anticipates this continues.
With half his Gateway Mall-based store stocked high with various pieces of NHL merchandise, he said that his business of 20 years has been successful as a result of fervent local sports fans.
The Edmonton Oilers are the most popular team among local sports fans, he noted, although the Winnipeg Jets are beginning to gain in popularity.
Prince Albert’s Boston Pizza is currently undergoing renovations, set to re-open on Jan. 18 -- a day before the NHL season is set to begin, new owner Tyler Birkland said.
The renovations have been done in an effort to make their sports bar more of a draw to sports fans.
“We have goal lights installed, so red lights will flash when there’s a goal scored,” he said.
But, the biggest draw will be the big-screen televisions being installed, capable of showing up to seven different live sports feeds at a time.
“If someone wants to watch more than one game at a time, this is the place to do it,” he said.
As soon as hockey starts, hopefully on the 19th, people are watching hockey, talking hockey, so they’re buying hockey. - Twilight Framing & Sports Gallery owner Al Mattice
The lack of NHL hockey has “definitely affected” business lately, he said -- something he expects will turn around rather quickly once sports fans check out his renovated sports lounge.
For the Prince Albert Raiders, the late start to the NHL season may have been to their benefit, with this year’s overall attendance up 15 per cent compared to this time last year.
“A winning team on the ice is the bulk of that, but I do think there has been some effects by the NHL lockout,” Raiders business manager Bruce Vance said.
“We have lots of younger people coming who may have stayed home to watch NHL games before, but our hope is that now they’re hooked on our product and it’ll carry them on throughout the rest of the season and hopefully in the playoffs.”
Although the late start may have been of benefit to them, Vance added that it’s still nice to have the NHL back.
“It’s great for the industry that it’s back,” he said. “Hockey is our product, and that’s the ultimate level that we’re hoping to prepare our guys to attain to, so it’s certainly a relief to everybody that NHL is back.
“We had a real good start to the season and people got excited early, and we’re still riding that wave.”