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NHL lockout deal to boost economy?

Jennifer Kwan

From sales of French fries to beer and burgers, the end of the National Hockey League lockout should give a small boost to Canada’s sluggish economy.

The NHL and the NHL Players' Association struck a tentative agreement early Sunday that may end the 113-day lockout of unionized players. The agreement reached in New York needs to be approved by both players and owners.

With half of the season left, businesses are banking sales will pick up. Jonathan Whitley, head bartender at the Wheat Sheaf Tavern in Toronto, one of the city's oldest watering holes, said he expects business to pick up.

"We know with absolute certainty it will," said Whitley when asked whether he thought he'd see more bums in seats.

"We haven't had a contender for a very long time. We kind of joke we haven't had hockey in this town for years, this is no real change," he added. "All joking aside, it'll certainly on game nights put 50 to 100 more people in our seats, which is significant in a bar."

The bar has roughly a 180-seat capacity.

The contract expired on Sept. 15 and the two sides were unable to reach an agreement. Fans will now be eyeing the closely-followed Stanley Cup playoffs.

"It was a relief they'll manage to salvage a little more than half the season," said Doug Porter, deputy chief economist at BMO Capital Markets.

"Any little bit helps. Just as the strike probably added to the slowdown we saw in broader GDP over the fall, the end of the strike should help a little bit with the recovery."

The potential loss for the economy had the deal not been struck would've sucked out 0.1 percent of Canadian growth, translating into some $1.8 billion in lost economic productivity.

If all goes well, the loss is just a little less than half of the season. That means the lockout will have subtracted about half of that, in other words 0.05 percent of GDP, or some $700 million.

"The good news is that the loss has already been mostly absorbed in the statistics and so what we'll see is a little bit of a rebound when we finally get January and February's GDP numbers. We'll see this tiny bump from the return of the NHL later on this year," said Porter, noting it would largely come from the arts, entertainment and recreation category.

A report on the impact of the NHL lockout in early December by credit and debit card processor Moneris found that overall spending at venues near arenas in Winnipeg, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Calgary had decreased more than 11 per cent from a year ago on a game day.

Bars and pubs were hit hardest with business falling nearly 35 per cent, while business at restaurants dropped just over 10 per cent.

On the flip side, Moneris said drinking establishments and restaurants away from arena areas saw a small boost in consumer spending.

The report gauges consumer spending activity by analyzing credit and debit card transaction data.