Game on!

Big Picture

(Matthew Sawatsky)

Jets fans rejoiced as arena workers finally brushed crimson lines onto the bluish ice of Winnipeg’s MTS Centre on Jan. 8. But it was undoubtedly a pretty sight for anyone who depends on major-league hockey for a living—from the ticket taker in the booth to the person who drives the Zamboni.

When the National Hockey League rumbles to life on Jan. 19, it will be a relief to the country’s entertainment and recreation sector, which saw revenues drop 1.2% in October partly due to the lockout, according to Statistics Canada. Among the businesses suffering most were, predictably, sports bars. Drinking establishments near hockey rinks saw an almost 35% drop in transactions, according to a December report from credit card processor Moneris.

The NHL agreement should effectively staunch the bleeding, and the lockout’s long-term effect will likely be small. Since more than half of the 2012–13 season was salvaged, the labour mess will ultimately cost Canada less than $900 million, according to a BMO Capital Markets report.

Measured differently, the real damage might look to be even less. Local residents’ pay did not take drastic hits when entire seasons have been cancelled in the past, according to a 2001 study by economists Dennis Coates and Brad Humphreys. Fans find other diversions to spend their season’s-ticket fees on, from movies or junior-league games.

Lockouts are undeniably bad for bartenders, ice technicians and manufacturers of suicide chicken wings. But it won’t take long to reap benefits from the season’s rebirth. Because statistics already reflect most of the losses, the BMO report says, the sports and entertainment sector should see an uptick in output through February.