Iqaluit businesses hoping for speedy end to NHL lockout
“It’s time to quit whining at each other. Take your piece of the pie and get to work”
As most hockey fans know by now, Canada’s national pastime is stalled by a complicated labour dispute between National Hockey League players and owners — the effect of which is not lost on Nunavut’s hockey-crazed capital.
At the Storehouse Bar and Grill in Iqaluit, manager Steve Sullivan scurries from a meeting into his small office, prepping for an always hectic Friday night.
Sullivan thinks the NHL lockout is a “hard pill to swallow” and welcomes an end to the dispute.
“It’s unfortunate to see the national pastime going through this, and the fact that adults can’t figure out how to deal with billions of dollars,” Sullivan said.
Because of the NHL lockout, which is in its 54th day, Sullivan has had to adjust to the demands of his customers. He’s introducing more live music to keep the entertainment flowing at his bar.
“We’ve tried to be a little creative and run some events to attract people,” Sullivan said.
That includes hosting a concert, bringing in DJs, and introducing more dart and pool tournaments in the future.
Surprisingly enough, however, Sullivan said sales compared to this time last year — while the NHL season was in full swing — are roughly the same.
At the same time, Sullivan said business is a bit slower on Saturday afternoons when CBC often broadcasts NHL games all day.
That’s also the case at the Kickin’ Caribou Pub nestled in the Hotel Arctic.
Manager Marc Weiler even said numbers are up this year compared to last — but would “absolutely” welcome hockey’s speedy return to his pub’s mounted flat screen televisions.
“It’s a little disheartening — it’s the same with when baseball walked out years ago. I kind of stopped watching that afterwards,” Weiler said.
“I’m not necessarily going to stop watching the NHL [when it returns] because, well, it’s hockey. But it still has its effects.”
And nobody knows those effects more than Doug Gidley.
He’s a goalie who plays in Iqaluit’s master’s hockey league, and identifies himself as a “big freak” when it comes to hockey.
“It’s forced me to watch stuff that I don’t usually watch,” Gidley said.
“Like golf. It’s like watching wet paint dry for me, but I’m keeping my eye on it,” Gidley said
A waiter at the Kickin’ Caribou Pub, Gidley thinks there are other effects of the NHL lockout that surpass the business side of hockey in the North — even if the nearest NHL team, Ottawa, is more than 2,000 km away.
“I think up here, I think that those athletes are in a way role models for the kids, because they don’t have them here,” Gidley said.
“Like Tootoo and others — and not just because he’s from Nunavut. These kids have their heroes.”
Gidley’s advice to the players and owners: “It’s time to quit whining at each other. Take your piece of the pie and get to work.”
And there’s new hope that the NHL season may be salvaged after all.
“Secret talks” are being held with NHL owners and the NHL Players’ Association this week in New York City.
However, some remain bleak about the situation. Last week legendary Canadian hockey guru Don Cherry told CBC that if he were betting on the season going ahead, he would say no.
The NHL has also cancelled its showcase Winter Classic game — the one game of the year that’s played in an outdoor venue — that had been scheduled to go ahead in January.
And what has Nunavut’s favourite NHL player Jordin Tootoo been up to during the lockout?
On Nov. 6 Tootoo tweeted a picture of what appears to be his living room under construction, which featured the hashtag #lockoutproblems accompanying it.