OHL hasn't benefitted from lockout

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:48 AM ET

The NHL lockout hasn't been a boon for business in the Ontario Hockey League.

While commissioner David Branch was excited to announce yesterday the OHL will be getting more exposure with Rogers cable subscribers, he said the lockout has only increased the league's gate receipts by about 3%.

Branch, speaking at a press conference at the Civic Centre to announce OHL games will be shown as part of the Super Sports Pak, admitted the sport is being hurt as a whole by the NHL's decision to lockout players.

"We've seen a slight increase in the OHL, but I really think this is hurting us more than it's helping," said Branch. "Most people thought this would be a big boost, but I think this lockout has hurt the attitude that people have toward hockey right now.

"This is just my personal opinion, but I think people are tired of the attitude of, 'Woe is me,' and they don't want to hear about people arguing over money. I'm concerned because I'm a hockey fan No. 1 and I really think when the NHL is playing it helps our sport."

Junior hockey has received more exposure because of the lockout, but Branch pointed out that in 18 of the 20 markets -- the exceptions are Ottawa and Toronto -- the OHL teams are the high-profile sport in the area.

Even 67's owner Jeff Hunt, who was hoping to sell out the Civic Centre nightly when the lockout started, has complained publicly about attendance and admitted yesterday he'd like to see the Senators back on the ice.

"I really believe that hockey sells hockey and I think with the Senators not playing right now that hurts us," said Hunt. "The Senators get everybody talking about hockey. They're on the radio, they're on television and they're on the front page of the newspapers.

"I believe that when the Senators are playing they get everybody in Ottawa in a hockey mood and that helps us because not everybody can go to those games. We get people in our building because of the exposure for the sport.

"Hockey fans know we've got a good product."

That's true and they're going to get to see a lot of it beamed into their living rooms this winter thanks to Rogers. Fans who subscribe to the Sports Pak, which includes NFL Sunday Ticket, NHL Centre Ice and MLB Extra Innings, will be able to watch additional OHL games.

"We feel this is a very significant move because right now we're going to up there as the No. 1 televised hockey league in the world," said Hunt.

"This is a milestone day for junior hockey because we feel that there's no better way to market your product than through television. Right now, fans want to see hockey on TV and this is going to give them that kind of opportunity."


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