Posted on May 25, 2008 06:46 PM | Permalink
By Simon Dingley, CBC News
Windsor, Ont., is Red Wing country. Usually during the hockey season, the border city is split evenly. Fifty per cent of its fans back the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the other half support the Wings. But with the Leafs missing the playoffs again, and the Wings in the Stanley Cup final, the Canadian border city appears to be solidly red and white. At least temporarily.
Windsor is counting on the final to give it an economic shot in the arm. A spokesman for the Windsor-Essex Chamber of commerce says a seven-game Stanley Cup final could be worth between $2 to $3 million in economic spinoffs for Windsor.
Peter Hrastovec says Windsor hotels, restaurants and bars could benefit the most.
"This has been a Wings town for a long long time" he says.
Hrastovec is hoping Windsor gets an economic "bump" from the Red Wings and the Detroit Pistons, who are in the NBA Eastern Conference final.
"When there's an international sporting event of any significance [in Detroit], you'll find a lot of people staying over here too," says Hrastovec.
Surprisingly, many hockey fans pumping money into Windsor's economy are from Pittsburgh. "Marc" sips a cold Canadian beer at a downtown cafe in his Evgeni Malkin jersey. He's just driven five hours from Pittsburgh. But why cross the border? Why not stay in Detroit near the Joe Louis arena?
"It's a little bit cheaper to get a hotel over here" he says.
Marc admits money is tight, so he and three buddies have stuffed themselves into a single Windsor hotel room. ("More money for beer!")
His buddy "Mike" sports a vintage Paul Coffey Penguins jersey. Mike figures he'll spend about $200 in Windsor during Games 1 and 2.
"I plan to go to the hockey games, go the casino and pass out," he says.
Andrew Hering of St. Catharines, Ont., has driven down with a small army of friends. Hering and his buddies think they'll spend at least $200 each during their stay in Windsor. But he's surprised at how quiet the city is.
"Not very many people walking around. Stanley Cup finals going on, but there's no ruckus going on.”
Friend Manny expects he'll drop up to $1,000 during his stay in Windsor. But, he admits, he thought he'd see a lot more hustle and bustle.
"It's very slow. I expected to see a lot more people around having a good time."
That could be because Windsor is hurting. The city has one of the highest unemployment rates in Canada at 8.3 per cent. It's lost up to 10,000 manufacturing jobs in the past seven years. The evidence is as plain as the scars on Chris Chelios's face. Windsor's downtown core is pockmarked by boarded up businesses. For Sale signs are commonplace.
One of Windsor's biggest sports bars, The Beach was only one-third full during Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final. The bar's owner had hoped the big game would mean big bucks in sales.
Dan Hogan says the problem is the local economy. Competiting bars nearby have slashed the price of drinks to lure Windsor hockey fans to their establishments. Hogan says tough times mean it's tough to make a living in the bar biz.
"We're surviving. We're not getting rich," says Hogan.
Chatham Street restaurant owner Chris Vassilou echoes that thought. He doesn't buy the theory that the Stanley Cup could pump millions into Windsor's economy.
"I don't see that kind of money. Most of it will stay over [in Detroit],” he says.
Vassilou says many Windsor hockey fans will have drinks before the game at home and will have drinks during the game at Joe Louis Arena. And he feels most will simply head home after the game.
Even if Windsor doesn't cash in on the Cup, the theory here is a Red Wings Stanley Cup victory will at least boost the spirits of the people in this hard-hit town.