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Biz boom expected with hockey deal

It was the early Sunday wake-up call that New Westminster bar manager Peter Saran has been looking forward to since Sept. 15.

It was the early Sunday wake-up call that New Westminster bar manager Peter Saran has been looking forward to since Sept. 15.

Saran manages the River's Reach Pub and he's been praying for the day the NHL lockout, which began in mid-September, came to an end and business would get back to normal at his popular uptown pub.

"Around 5 a.m., my phone started going crazy and my family was wondering what the emergency was," said Saran. "I knew they were close to a deal, but to find out for real that it was over, that was good news."

Saran said business at River's Reach was a little off because of the lockout, but the resolution of the dispute couldn't have come at a better time.

"Before the holidays, we were doing OK because the Seahawks are huge and the NFL is big," said Saran. "We would've really felt it as soon as the NFL season ends, so for hockey to be back, that's really good for us."

Also woken up early Sunday was a local ticket broker who's been feeling the pinch of no Vancouver Canucks hockey.

Kingsley Bailey received a text at 5 a.m. Sunday morning.

"Who the heck is texting you at this time?" Kingsley's wife Debbie asked.

"I had to tell her it was a friend telling me the NHL lockout was over and business was going to pick up," said the North Burnaby resident. "I was so excited that I didn't go back to bed after that. I didn't jump on the bed or couch like Tom Cruise, but I was pretty happy."

Bailey, who runs Vancouver Tour and Ticket Service in downtown Vancouver, said his business took a hit of at least 40 per cent for the three-plus months there was no Vancouver Canucks hockey at Rogers Arena.

With the Canucks set to start a 48game schedule on Jan. 19, Bailey expects the next four months to be crazy busy.

"I think the good news for Canucks fans is you'll find that there will be a lot of good, affordable games early in the season," said Bailey. "I think fans will come back, but not all of them will, so that may mean more tickets are available."

One way Bailey was able to stay afloat while his biggest attraction was on the sidelines was to concentrate on another pseudo-local sports team that has captured the imagination of North American sports fans.

"We went big on the Seattle Seahawks," said Bailey. "Just because there was no hockey didn't mean people didn't have money to spend on events.

There were so many Canadians who wanted to see the Seahawks and that was really good for business. . Plus, we got a huge amount of exposure."

Another thing Bailey did was capitalize on a great slate of concerts that came into Vancouver in the autumn.

"To have Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen come in on back-to-back nights was pretty good," he said. "Add in Neil Young, and we've got Lady Gaga this weekend, and it's been a good concert season."

At the Hilton Vancouver Metrotown, general manager Ed Jaskula is still waiting for the NHL schedule to come out so that his staff can start their marketing plans.

"Obviously, weekend games are better for us because then we'll have people from Kelowna, Seattle and Vancouver Island who will come for a game and only be a couple SkyTrain stops away," said Jaskula. "I'd like to see the NHL come out with something like reduced, or reasonably priced tickets as a goodwill gesture and that would spur more people to get out and want to come to games."

Jaskula estimates the hotel probably lost 20 per cent in revenues because of the lockout.

"You could see it in our lounge that if there isn't hockey on TV, people won't come out of their rooms," he said.

"You'll get some guests who'll come down to watch NBA and the NFL, but nothing replaces NHL hockey in the lounge."

Jaskula said he's also worried that a compressed schedule will be a problem.

"Too much hockey too fast can be a problem too," he said. "People's budgets are what they are. . We need to see what the schedule looks like."

Back in New Westminster, Saran said personally, he's happy to see the Canucks and the NHL back, but it also means a little work outside of his job.

"I have to start working on my hockey pool now," he said. "I'm going to have to sit down and do some research because it's been so long since we had NHL hockey." AlfieLau