Maple Ridge pubs can't wait for Canucks game nights

Bartender Jamie Mathieson of the Fox
Bartender Jamie Mathieson of the Fox's Reach pub said the Maple Ridge bar scene has missed NHL game nights.
— image credit: Colleen Flanagan

The NHL is coming back, and so is the pub business in Maple Ridge.

Sports bars across B.C. have limped along on UFC fights, NFL games and other events, but there is nothing like a slate of Canucks games to fill their seats several nights a week.

“Canucks is big business – especially in the restaurant and bar business,” said Josh Flett, owner of Fox’s Reach in Maple Ridge.

He went out Sunday and bought a bale of Canucks jerseys.

In the wee hours of that morning, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced that after a marathon bargaining session, the league and the players association had reached a tentative agreement. That ended both six months of bargaining and a lockout that cost the league at least 32 games off every team’s 82-game schedule. Observers say a second cancelled NHL season was narrowly averted.

“I’m super stoked that they’re back,” said Flett. “It’ll be good for the community – good for business.”

He has done his best to bring in fans, even bringing in Brother Jake from Rock 101 radio to host his Superbowl event. But having the Canucks back makes the job much easier.

The Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association has pegged the amount of money the Canucks generate for other businesses in that city at $1 million per game. The effect may be diminished further from Rogers Centre, but the ripples are felt across the entire province.

Cheryl Sahota of Blueline Sports in Haney Place Mall was watching her Twitter feed on Saturday, so she knew the all-night bargaining session meant the negotiations had reached an inflection point. For her, Sunday morning’s announcement was not unexpected, but it was welcomed.

“For us, it’s a huge relief,” she said. “It has been a really rough year.”

She and her husband George have had the sports apparel and merchandise store in Haney Place Mall for 19 years. They have seen the passion for the Canucks reach its highest pitch ever in recent years, and last year was the best ever for their business.

With the highest-end jerseys selling for $210 apiece, with hats and t-shirts selling regularly, and with the addition of more attractive clothing for women, it was going to be another good year for the Canucks and their merchandise.

“This year, with Schneider playing and everything, there was a lot of anticipation.”

Sahota has seen that optimism turn to anger at the league and players. But she is optimistic fans will eventually come back to the rinks – at least on this side of the 49th parallel.

“Canadian fans? Yes,” she said. “I can understand that fans are angry.

“If we [the Canucks] get off to a good start, people will be back.”

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