by Danielle Doiron, @dmdoiron
Regardless of who wins the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic, some Winnipeg business owners will likely come out on top.
The National Hockey League announced plans its first-ever outdoor game in Winnipeg on Sunday. The fourth Heritage Classic will see the Winnipeg Jets host the Edmonton Oilers in regular season action at Investors Group Field (IGF) on Sunday, Oct. 23. Fans will also have a chance to watch retired greats like Wayne Gretzky, Dale Hawerchuk and Teemu Selanne in an alumni game scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 22.
Business owners in the south end of the city are eager to see how the event will impact sales.
Gord Lovell, the general manager of the Barley Brothers at 2005 Pembina Hwy., said he’s excited at the chance to draw hockey fans to the south end of the city – especially since there are limited bar options in the area.
“There’s not a ton of places you can go in the area to eat,” he said. “People are going to be in the area, and they’re going to want something to do.”
Lovell said he anticipated an outdoor game coming to Winnipeg, and he hopes to host a special breakfast and parking lot pickup games.
“People will likely take the day off,” he said when asked about the highly anticipated alumni game. “We’ll probably open the doors early.”
Lovell said he can’t afford $600 tickets – the rumoured approximate price for a weekend package with passes to both games – but will make sure to show the games in his restaurant so any fan can tune in to the action.
And he’s used to running a busy bar. Last summer, Barley Brothers served as the American fan headquarters when IGF hosted seven games of the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, and Lovell said he normally sees a lot of traffic on Winnipeg Blue Bombers game days.
Bombers spokesman Darren Cameron said the games will also be a big boost for IGF.
“We’ve very excited to be the host venue for the Heritage Classic,” he said in an email. “It was able to work favourably with our football team and its schedule, and to have Investors Group Field once again showcased on a national stage is great, not only for us, but for the entire province.”
Alan MacPherson, spokesman for Tourism Winnipeg, agrees.
He said he’s thrilled to see another large-scale event come to Winnipeg so soon after the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
“It’s an event that’s going to take over the city for the weekend,” MacPherson said. “The games will help showcase what Winnipeg has to offer. We want the response from visitors to [extend] far outside Investors Group Field.
“The athletes – the old-timers – are going to see a totally different city from the last time they were here.”
IGF hosted the 103rd Grey Cup, which saw the Edmonton Eskimos beat the Ottawa RedBlacks 26-20 in front of around 37,000 fans this past November. The stadium added extra end zone bleachers for the event, but there’s no word yet on whether similar plans are in place for the NHL game.
Updated Monday at 2:30 p.m. to include comments from Alan MacPherson.