|Average JoeÕs Sports Bar owner Rob Mereska, alongside server Amy Tamaki, is looking forward to the return of NHL hockey with the season set to start today after months of lockout. Herald photo by Ian Martens|
With the NHL season finally about to begin today, several local businesses stand to benefit immensely.
Staff at sports bars such as Average Joe's, the Shark Club, Scores and Legends, as well as sport merchandisers such as Jersey City and Sport Chek, have all been anxious to see hockey return since an agreement to end the lockout happened on Jan. 6.
"It will definitely help business, for sure," said Rob Mereska, owner of Average Joe's.
"You would feel it more come March and April when it's closer to the playoffs. But I guess it won't happen now because there will be hockey. People are really excited."
"It's great news for us - the NHL is half of my store," said Tyler Koyata, manager of Jersey City at Park Place mall, adding Edmonton Oilers merchandise has been the No. 1 seller, based on their youthful lineup and potential this season.
"There was a lot less NHL products being sold just in general compared to last year. But now that it's back and the games start on Saturday, it's started to pick up. People are finally coming in and looking at what we have."
Shark Club manager Davie Salcedo says business has remained steady, thanks in large part to the NFL playoffs, but he still anticipates increased crowds moving forward despite the resolve of some fans saying they won't be watching.
"It seems like there's a controversy going on about people wanting to watch hockey or not," he said.
"We tend to hear that a lot, but everyone that's been coming in during the past little bit has been talking about the season and if we'll be showing the games. We expect a lot of fans to probably come in."
The Shark Club will have the sound on for Calgary's opener against San Jose on Sunday at 4 p.m., as well as for every Flames game this season.
Average Joe's has the Centre Ice package which shows more games than just those featuring Calgary and Edmonton. But Mereska, himself an Oilers fan, says nothing beats a good Flames-Oilers game.
"If you get a Calgary-Edmonton game, it's definitely busier," he said, adding the condensed 48-game schedule in 99 days should help, too.
"The run at the end is going to be awesome. Every night should be busy with people watching hockey, which is exciting."
"People aren't completely bitter about the lockout," Koyata added.
"They're just glad the NHL is back and they're willing to kind of forgive and forget for the most part."