A costly hockey exhibition
An NHL alumni game in Bay Roberts leaves taxpayers on hook for $13,000
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. It was the same group of NHLers playing in the Fortune Arena the same month.
The town welcomed a group of NHL legends Feb. 8, 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.
Bay Roberts Mayor Philip Wood admitted “It was not as successful as we hoped it would be.”
It was the first time Bay Roberts had staged such an event in the community.
Wood said “Council saw who was involved ... and thought we would give it a try.”
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 stadium was at near capacity in 2011, the second game was sparsely attended with Harbour Grace taking a small loss.
Wood said “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. 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.
Wood suggested “It shouldn’t stop us at all.”
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.
Ian Flynn, the town’s director of recreation, said “There are only so many hockey fans that are out there and of course, they were pulled in all different directions. The same people that would go to your event are going to other events.”
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. Flynn said “We saw the lineup this time and thought, ‘ Yup we’ll give it a try,’ and unfortunately it didn’t work out.”
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.”
Wood added “It was a great community event.”
The day following the event Bay Roberts was receiving high praise from those outside of the community.
The major noted “The spinoff was great. The legends did their part and promoted the town, and the people that went there. I haven’t heard a bad comment about it.”
Flynn added “In terms of organization, I think we put off a show that was second to none.”
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.
Flynn said “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.”