SUN Hockey Pool

Bars cheer team's return

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:19 AM ET

If anyone doubts the connection between the Calgary Flames and their city, head to a sports bar during Hockey Night in Canada.

It's a far cry from those empty evenings during last year's lockout.

Bottoms Up owner Spencer Tapley was hit hard by the absence of NHL hockey and his patrons were notably absent.

"It was tough. There was a couple of times I didn't think we'd make it," said Tapley.

"It almost cost me the business."

While NFL football can pack in the crowds on a Sunday or Monday night, the NHL is a real lifeline for many local establishments.

"The games in the NHL keep us afloat eight months of the year and I knew that before we opened," said Tapley, who just celebrated Bottoms Up's third anniversary Sept. 15.

"Nothing replaced the NHL last year."

Tapley expects sales increases of around 50-60% over the first month of the NHL season alone.

"I knew it was going to be bad going into the lockout, I just didn't know it was going to be that bad," Tapley said. "I'm happy it's done."

A 1994 provincial study spearheaded by local lawyer Doug Mitchell estimated the Flames' economic impact on the city at around $65-75 million annually. More than 10 years later, that study is just as relevant.

The franchise offers more than a hundred full-time and 1,000 part-time jobs but there are just as many indirect benefits created by the Flames.

"It gives us identity, I think, beyond North America and that's all part of economic impact," said Mitchell, a part owner of the Calgary Stampeders and former CFL commissioner.

Mitchell says pro sports franchises, especially when successful, also complete a city from a lifestyle standpoint.

Flames president Ken King agrees.

"We know that it's a very positive force," said King. "You can't measure civic pride. You can't measure the value of civic pride. You can't measure the value of a positive feeling but all of those things contribute to the well-being of a city and undoubtedly transmit into economic benefit of consequence."


Videos

Photos