03/03/2014 04:48 EST | Updated 05/03/2014 05:59 EDT

Measuring the Value of Professional Hockey On and Off the Ice

Professional sports teams are an integral part of a community's social fabric and its identity. However their economic contributions and overall impact to local communities are often overlooked. Indeed a well-managed sports team can provide benefits far beyond what happens on the ice: as a business and charity connector as well as a community brand ambassador. Teams can also help set the tone about the need for business and communities to adopt winning strategies to compete on the global stage.

In 2012 we decided to follow up on an opportunity to quantify the economic and social impact of the Ottawa Senators, Canadian Tire Centre and our other properties in the most credible and transparent way possible. We were approached by Norm O'Reilly a former professor at the University of Ottawa who is now the Chair of the Department for Sports Administration at Ohio University to conduct a study. More than 100 graduate students worked a collective 2,500 hours analyzing the data from more than 200 different sources. In total they identified more than 132 ways the Senators impact the city whether it was in financial, tourism, community development, infrastructure or sport.

The study released this past Monday at a luncheon hosted by the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce shows that the annual direct economic impact of Senators Sports & Entertainment (SSE) on the Ottawa-Gatineau CMA is $100 million, which translates to more than $1.5 billion of economic impact to the region since 1992. When multiplier estimates are used to include indirect impact, these numbers jump to more than $200 million annually and above $3 billion since the Senators joined the NHL.

The University of Ottawa study highlights the opportunity for not only the Senators, but other professional hockey franchises to act as business connectors and community connectors. This role carries with it a significant responsibility, but it's an important role that all major teams should strive to attain. A true win-win situation is created when teams are able to generate significant economic activity, to showcase a local business or service, to assist a human resource manager to reward hard-working employees or to help close a deal with a prospective client.

As a business/community connector, professional hockey teams bring a number of tangible benefits to their communities such as increases to tourism and meaningful contributions to local charities through philanthropic efforts. However, there are a number of other benefits that often go under the radar that aren't always apparent:

• Innovation: Professional hockey teams act as major business partners to their communities and as such play a large part in driving innovation. Technology is essential to both a team's success and the fan experience. Many teams help drive innovation by partnering with successful local firms in big data; business analytics; in-arena fan apps and WiFi systems - giving these firms a chance to implement their technology, fund new research and development efforts and create jobs.

• Branding: The University of Ottawa economic impact study revealed benefits for future tourism and for the City of Ottawa's brand image. Approximately 87 per cent of tourists reported that attending a Senators-related event was the principal reason for their visit to the city, and the majority indicated that they were very likely to return. In addition, a survey of local residents indicated that the majority (56 per cent) identified SSE as having a positive impact on the region. When examining other pro hockey teams, it's not difficult to see similar effects in their regions.

• Exposure: A professional hockey team is a major focus for media in any city. Any type of media coverage related to a hockey team in print, broadcast and online sources all serve to bring attention to the city they are based. This helps local communities build profile, attract residents, attract businesses and better compete on the regional, national or world stage.

The Ottawa Senators are proud of the role we play in the Ottawa community and we are going to lead by example and intensify our efforts to generate opportunity and economic activity for our local business partners. It's clear that professional hockey teams can bring a multitude of benefits to a city and that these types of operations can be leveraged to strengthen the entire community.