A costly hockey exhibition for Bay Roberts

An NHL alumni game at Bay Arena leaves taxpayers on hook for $13,000

Nicholas Mercer nmercer@cbncompass.ca
Published on March 19, 2014
Montreal Canadiens alumni Chris Nilan (left) and Boston Bruins alum Jay Miller pose for a picture prior to the NHL Legends game at the Bay Arena in Bay Roberts on Feb. 8. Shown in the background is Bay Roberts player Mark Canning.
Photo by Nicholas Mercer/The Compass

The Town of Bay Roberts is on the hook for some $13,000 after hosting an exhibition hockey game featuring former National Hockey League players.

On Feb. 8, the town welcomed a group of NHL legends, including former Stanley Cup champion Theo Fleury, to the Bay Arena for a game against a team made up of community members.

Bringing these players to Bay Roberts cost the town some $20,000, but by the time amenities like hotels were factored in, the price tag was closer to $25,000.

It's been learned the town was able to recoup just under half of that — some $12,000 — through proceeds from the game.

“It was not as successful as we hoped it would be,” said Bay Roberts Mayor Philip Wood.

It was the first time Bay Roberts had staged such an event in the community.

“Council saw who was involved … and thought we would give it a try,” said Wood.

The game was not the first time former NHL players had squared off with teams in this region. And, it was not the first time these games have lost money.

From 2011-2012, the Eastlink CeeBee Stars and the Town of Harbour Grace welcomed alumni from both the Montreal Canadiens and the Boston Bruins.

While the S.W. Moores was at near capacity in 2011, the second game was sparsely attended with Harbour Grace taking a small loss.

“The NHL Legends did their part in putting on a good show, but the problem was, the people didn’t come out as well as what we wanted too,” said Wood. “We’re disappointed the bottom line wasn’t as good.

“We don’t regret doing it.”

The town has money budgeted for community events and the financial hit taken through this will not prevent them from putting off what they normally do.

“It shouldn’t stop us at all,” said Wood.

 

Outstanding factors

The game drew some 500 fans to the stadium. Officials with the town pointed to a number of factors that contributed to the lower than expected turnout.

A number of minor hockey teams were on the road, the American Hockey League’s St. John’s IceCaps were playing in the capital city, and provincial senior hockey was at the S.W. Moores Memorial Stadium in Harbour Grace.

The Eastlink CeeBee Stars were involved in a makeup game with Mount Pearl. The club has a group of 500 fans that faithfully attend every game.

There are only so many hockey fans that are out there and of course, they were pulled in all different directions,” said Ian Flynn, the town's director of recreation. “The same people that would go to your event are going to other events.”

 

Previously approached

Before this game, the group responsible for these tours had previously approached Bay Roberts, but the town had always looked at the lineup of players and balked at the idea.

Not this time.

“We saw the lineup this time and thought, ‘Yup we’ll give it a try,’ and unfortunately it didn’t work out,” said Flynn.

According to Flynn, there are other ways to judge the success of an event.

Financials is one way, but when speaking with The Compass, he mentioned two others.

“I base it on the fact that the people we brought into our community want to come back, which I think we succeeded in that, and the people who bought tickets leave and tell people who didn’t go that you missed a great event. I think we certainly succeeded on that level as well,” said Flynn.

“It was a great community event,” added Wood.

The day following the event Bay Roberts was receiving high praise from those outside of the community.

“The spinoff was great,” said Wood. “The legends did their part and promoted the town, and the people that went there. I haven’t heard a bad comment about it.”

“In terms of organization, I think we put off a show that was second to none,” added Flynn.

Despite the optimism surrounding the event itself, the fact of the matter is it was a substantial financial loss to the town.

It is because of this Wood and Flynn said the town would have to give it serious thought before bringing a second such game to Bay Roberts.

“We’ve discussed amongst our committees, we’ve discussed amongst council and if we were to entertain the event again, there would have to be some serious changes made in terms of going about how we ensure that there are proper ticket sales,” said Flynn.

nmercer@cbncompass.ca