Sea Dogs, Wildcats could benefit from NHL lockout
Could boost season ticket sales
Quebec Major Junior Hockey league teams in New Brunswick are already reporting strong ticket sales and if the NHL lockout goes ahead, they say sales could be even stronger.
The Saint John Sea Dogs have sold about 2,400 season tickets so far, said president Wayne Long.
The team, which made it to the Memorial Cup last season and became the first Maritime team to win it the year before, is drawing a lot of interest.
Long is hopeful an NHL lockout can be averted, but if not, he believes the QMJHL could see more business.
"You know what, it will certainly cast more eyes on major junior hockey," he said.
"We've got a great product, we've got great rivalries, and we'll certainly take the opportunity, if it presents itself to us."
The QMJHL provides high-calibre hockey, training future NHL stars, said Long.
The general manager of the Moncton Wildcats, Jeff Rose, agrees.
The Wildcats' James Melindy, 18, was the first hockey player from Atlantic Canada to be selected for the NHL in June.
Season ticket sales for the Wildcats, considered to be a contender this year, are also going well, with about 100 season tickets sold in just the last couple of weeks, said Rose.
Like Long, Rose is hoping the NHL owners and players can reach an agreement, but if not, his team will be ready, he said.
"Within maybe three or four weeks of that, I think people that are looking for the NHL and can't find it — where are they going to find their hockey fix? Well the Moncton Wildcats, I think, are going to be the number one answer here in Greater Moncton," said Rose.
"I think what'll happen is you'll see a resurgence towards ticket sales, walk-ups and some of our season ticket packs for sure, but I think people will wait and see."
Season ticket sales numbers for the Acadie-Bathurst Titans were not available.
NHL lockout pending
The NHL's current collective agreement is set to expire on Saturday.
There are no scheduled talks between the NHL and NHL Players' Association this week, but there have been a few informal sessions since negotiations broke off on Aug. 31.
The sides have been unable to find agreement on the amount of money players will be paid next season. The owners want to see an immediate reduction — the NHL's latest offer would result in 19 per cent less being paid out — while the players are unwilling to have the overall pool drop from the $1.87 billion they received in 2011-12.
If a new deal isn't reached by Saturday, the league will lock out the players — something it did in 1994 and again in 2004-05, when it became the first North American sports league to lose an entire season to a labour dispute. The NHLPA staged a 10-day strike prior to the 1992 playoffs.
The NHLPA is attempting to legally stop a lockout through labour boards in Quebec and Alberta.