NHL Lockout: Vancouver at a loss


Poker has taken the place of NHL games on the screens at the Shark Club, a sports bar that is used to being jam-packed with hockey fans at this time of year. ( photo)

Story by Staff


Ramon Cajuguiran, a manager at Robson Sports, says prices have been cut on Canucks jerseys during the NHL lockout. ( photo)

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA — Australian tourist Shannon Hemsworth ponders the suspension of NHL games and concludes, “It’s sad for the country.”

The 22-year-old bartender says she was disappointed to learn of the labour stoppage during her first visit to Vancouver, because she was looking forward to pub-hopping and watching the home team. Now, it will just be pubs without sports, she laughs.

“I would definitely have gone to a NHL game while I’m here,” Hemsworth says, surveying memorabilia at Robson Sports.

Instead, she buys a Vancouver Canucks jersey for her dad back home because, she mourns, it’s the next best thing to seeing a game.

The Robson Street store has reduced jerseys to $89.99 from regular $130 during the NHL shutdown and sales have been brisk, reports manager Ramon Cajuguiran, 21.

“Diehard hockey fans are still buying,” he says, noting that most tourists this season are from Australia and Germany. A few Toronto visitors have bought Maple Leafs gear; others have bought New York Rangers jerseys.

Fans are ever-hopeful the league and players will reach a deal, although they’ve missed more than 400 games already, he adds. Games were cancelled through December 30 earlier this week.

“A lot of people assume there’s still going to be a hockey season, so they’re gearing up,” Cajuguiran says.

Clasping his hands as if in prayer, he looks upward and says, “there’s a hope and a chance there will still be a season.”

Tourists Seek Options During NHL Lockout

At the Shark Club on West Georgia Street, a few fans watch a poker tournament on big screens normally tuned to hockey. Without hockey, the sports bar and grill depends on NFL football games to pack the place.

“It’s a mixed blessing,” says businessman Martin Mazzucco, 58. “Millionaires (players) are fighting with billionaires (owners) right now, so it really doesn’t bother me if I can’t see my team.”

Besides, he chuckles, “I’m getting a lot done on the ‘honey-do’ list.”

Mazzucco lives in suburban Coquitlam, so says he prefers to spend $30 for minor-league hockey tickets, at one-quarter of the price of NHL games.

“You still support a local team and it’s better than paying $20 for parking and a hot dog” when you see the Canucks play, he adds.

Mazzucco watches the Coquitlam Chiefs near his home or the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League at the Pacific Coliseum.

“It’s great hockey,” he says. “It’s where all the big players come from anyway.”

Vancouver is buzzing again about the Giants, because co-owner Pat Quinn, former NHL player and coach, was just awarded the Order of Canada. Quinn coached Canada to a gold medal in men’s hockey at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Grad student Breeze Doner, 25, says the loss of NHL is a blow to Vancouver culture.

“We are seriously culturally deprived,” she insists. “Hockey is a giant part of my life. I’m a student — I can’t afford cable, so seeing my friends and watching hockey at a pub with a pitcher of beer is my only outing.”

The UBC student rhymes off pubs where she usually meets friends to watch games — Foggy Dew, The Lennox (where NHL season-ticket holders usually gather pre- and post-game) and Malone’s.

At Malone’s Urban Drinkery on West Pender Street, there are Trivia Tuesdays, Karaoke Thursdays and Live Music Fridays, but no NHL games on the flat screens.

But there’s great craft beer, Doner says. A sleeve of Red Racer, from Central City Brewing, is $4.02; a jug, $13.39. Same prices for sampling A Wee Angry Scotch Ale.

More About the NHL Lockout and Travel

 Calgary fans and visitors explore their options without the Flames,’s Jody Robbins writes

A Map Showing Robson Sports, Malone’s and The Shark Club

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Vicky is the worldly publisher of Having graduated from McGill University in Montreal, she has set about building a talented team of travel experts to deliver to you words and images of the very best places to see and experience in Canada. Based in Yorkville in Toronto, Vicky regularly jet sets around Canada — be sure to catch up with her when she's in your part of the country.

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