Chicken wings and pool noodles: How this Edmonton bar owner is preparing for hockey’s 'Battle of Alberta'
It’s been more than three decades since the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames faced off in the National Hockey League Stanley Cup playoffs. To put that into perspective, when the two Albertan hockey rivals last met in the finals, Terminator 2: Judgment Day topped the box office and Bryan Adams’ "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You" led the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles list.
For restaurant and bar owners across the province who navigated COVID-related shutdowns and restrictions for more than two years, this isn’t just about the legendary matchup.
“This playoff round is going to make a huge difference for hospitality in Alberta. Any pubs that have a viewing party will get a much-needed revenue increase,” said Ernie Tsu, owner of Calgary-based Trolley 5 Brewpub and head of the Alberta Hospitality Association, over the phone.
“After two years of debt and being open and closed with COVID restrictions, every dollar counts right now.”
However, keeping up with the influx of hockey fans is easier said than done with many businesses still struggling with supply chain issues.
“We have a really big problem with getting Coors Light bottles here and it’s my best seller,” said Glenn Juhnke, owner of Edmonton-based Uncle Glenn's Eatery and Sports Pub, over the phone.
“For a month, I had a hard time finding it. I called suppliers every single day and when they finally had it in stock I bought everything that was there.”
But Juhnke said the challenges in ramping up his operation don’t stop there, with wholesale prices climbing for one particular pub food favourite.
“Chicken wings are up $50 a case, so if we go through two cases in a week, or even more during playoffs, then we have to pay an extra $100 on just wings,” said Juhnke.
Despite dishing out more cash to stock up on ingredients and drinks, Juhnke said his pub always benefits from the hordes of Oilers fans that have supported his bar for over 35 years.
“We’re probably doing double the business on out-of-town game nights, which is significant when you’re normally making $10,000 on a regular week,” said Juhnke.
It’s not just restaurant and bar owners that are benefiting from the “Battle of Alberta” that’s taking place this year.
Norm O’Reilly, dean at the Graduate School of Business and professor of marketing and sport management at the University of Maine, said Canadian cities generate about $2- to $4-million in tourist revenue per home game during the playoffs, based on data that tracked the Ottawa Senators’ playoff series in 2017.
"If the Oilers-Flames playoffs go to game seven like they did in 1991, then that’s around $21 million total with $12 million in Calgary (since they started the second round there) and $9 million in Edmonton,” O’Reilly said via phone.
“This is a prime example of why house games matter -- you’re making tourist dollars from fans flying in, booking hotels and restaurants etc. This money wouldn’t be coming in unless the team was hosting a playoff game and that’s just another reason why making the Cup is so important.”
The two Albertan teams are the only Canadian groups left in the Stanley Cup playoffs and after the dramatic 9-6 victory for Calgary in the first game, many fans will be closely watching to see how the rival matchup unfolds.
“We have orange and blue pool noodles for everyone to cheer on the team. The atmosphere in the bar is really positive and this Battle of Alberta is going to be amazing for the province as a whole,” said Juhnke.