09/11/2012 01:09 EDT

NHL Lockout 2012: Cancellation Of Season Would Shave $1.8 Billion Off GDP, Economist Says


A looming lockout of NHL players could shave 0.1 per cent off of Canada’s GDP, costing the country about $1.8 billion in lost economic productivity.

That’s the assessment from BMO economist Doug Porter, who estimated the cost of an NHL lockout — looming this Saturday — on the basis of previous hockey labour disputes.

According to Porter, the performing arts, heritage and sports sector of Canada’s economy saw a decline of roughly 0.1 per cent of GDP during the 2004-05 lockout, which resulted in the cancellation of the entire hockey season.

That’s “too small a share of the economy” to really affect Canadians negatively, Porter said. He noted that — since spending on hockey generally comes out of people’s disposable income — money not spent hockey games would be likely spent on other forms of entertainment.

“It’s probably more important from a psychological standpoint,” Porter said.

Much of the impact, however, would be felt at the local level.

The tourism board of Windsor, Ontario, says the city’s economy stands to lose “millions” from the cancellation of the this season’s NHL Winter Classic, the outdoor game which this year would see the Toronto Maple Leafs take on the Detroit Red Wings in Ann Arbor, Michigan, about 45 minutes from the southern Ontario city.

The two previous Winter Classic — held in Boston in 2010 and Pittsburgh in 2011 — netted $36 million and $22 million for the local economies, according to NHL data.

And it's not just big events like the Winter Classic. The Boston Conventions And Visitors Bureau estimates that each Bruins home game brings in almost a million dollars to local businesses. Revenue that a lockout would threaten.

Businesses like sports bars would probably be hurt the most by an NHL lockout. Bar owners in New York lost millions and had to cut back on staffing during last year's NBA lockout.

The current agreement between players and the the league expires at midnight on Saturday. Observers are growing increasingly pessimistic about a resolution beforehand.

For the players, among the key issues is the NHL’s request for wage rollbacks of around 19 per cent, something many players are resistant to, especially given the large increases in NHL revenue in recent years -- up 50 per cent to $3.3 billion, in the years since the last lockout.

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