“All parties involved want these games to be well served.”

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There will be fans in the Saddledome when the Calgary Flames host the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night.

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That’s a rare thing on an NHL track in Canada these days.

Ticket sales in Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver are capped at 50 percent by the Alberta and British Columbia provincial governments, which is better than the alternative, because the Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, and Winnipeg Jets cannot have fanatics. .

As a result of caps due to the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, the NHL began postponing several games in Canada last month, with owners and players trying to avoid a major financial hit after playing last season in empty tracks.

Forgive the owners and players if they thought the days of empty courts or capacity limits were behind us. They were happy to complete a 56-game schedule last season, but didn’t enjoy the fact that there was little to no atmosphere, even with the fake crowd noise and loud music.

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Both parties are still paying the price for playing during the pandemic and were hopeful that this season would help them get back on the path of financial recovery. Everything looked great until a month ago, and now it seems that the clock has turned back.

The bottom line is that, one way or another, the restrictions in Canada will be a huge hit to hockey-related revenue, which is split 50/50 by owners and players, so essentially the NHL is trying to soften the blow. mutually.

This is why we have seen postponements in Canada.

“A big part of this is business reasons,” Ottawa-based attorney Andy Scott, an agent for Octagon Hockey, said Tuesday. “You have the concept of Hockey Related Income and ensuring there is significant growth in HRR this season is for everyone’s benefit.

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“All parties involved want these games to be well attended. They all want us to get out of this latest wave of COVID-19 so that it can be safe for everyone in the first place and that these games can generate revenue that will be part of the end-of-season HRR calculation. “

If you’re wondering what constitutes HRR, it’s the money that comes from ticket sales, concessions, parking, merchandise, and streaming revenue. If more than 50 percent of HRR goes to the players, then they have to make up the shortfall by paying the escrow owners.

Players are already paying off $ 950 million to $ 1 billion in debt from last season.

That is the main reason that neither the owners nor the players have opposed the postponement of the games in Canada. The Habs, for example, haven’t played at the Bell Center since they posted a 3-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Dec. 16.

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The Habs’ five home games this month will be rescheduled, and at this time they are not supposed to play in Montreal until they begin a four-game stint against the Anaheim Ducks on January 27.

Although the Flames, Oilers, and Canucks are allowed half their capacity, fans must wear masks and cannot purchase food or drink. That means the only real source of income comes from ticket sales, and it will drop significantly due to the limits.

“If you look at HRR on the CBA, it takes almost 20 pages, but it essentially comes down to all of the revenue streams related to NHL games and events,” Scott said. “Compared to other leagues, the NHL has a greater share of its total income attributed to playing these games and, in particular, to entry receipts.

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“It is really important that these games are played with as many fans in the seats as possible. Making these games play fanless does nothing for the owners who have to put the games on and does very little for the players because the HRR number is very important to them.

“It is important that everyone understands that it is in everyone’s best interest that these games are suspended when the government removes these restrictions.”

The NHL was able to buy time off the schedule by failing to take a three-week break in February to allow players to attend the Winter Olympics in Beijing. Many of the 104 games that have been postponed will be played during that month.

The league hopes that by the end of the month, the variant will have reached its peak and fans will be able to return to all the tracks in Canada.

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It must be difficult for owners, GMs and players in Canada to watch the games in the United States and see the packed arenas.

“It’s extremely frustrating for the players, and talking to some general managers in recent weeks is frustrating for them,” Scott said. “The protocols are taking their toll, and then from a player’s point of view, the players are very used to a cadence in the season.

“And they’re completely out of that cadence and they know they’ll be hit with a barrage of games once they reschedule. The players we have on Canadian teams are preparing for that. Once we finish February and March, we can see what kind of impact all of this has on HRR. There will be an impact, but I’m not sure how significant. “

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Twitter: @sungarrioch

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