Calgary’s Red Mile is set to make a big comeback this May as Flames fans celebrate their team securing a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
And businesses in popular postgame destinations along the stretch of 17th Avenue SW couldn’t be happier to welcome the sea of red shirts.
It’s been two long years since the Calgary Flames last made a bid for the Lord Stanley Cup, and that was during the 2020 COVID bubble playoffs, in which fans were banned from attending games in person. and health restrictions limited drinks after the game. The last time Flames fans enjoyed an in-person playoff game at the Scotiabank Saddledome was during the Flames’ brief 2019 appearance that ended in the first round when the Colorado Avalanche eliminated them in five games.
This year, things will be different; both in terms of fan engagement and expectations for the team. Hockey lovers will flock to the ‘Dome again in May to see their team in action in the playoffs, and those leanings are sure to be followed by a mass migration to 17th Avenue SW for post-game celebrations or mourning – great news for everyone. the bars and pubs that line the street.
“It’s been a tough four years — two years of construction and two years of the pandemic,” said Ernie Tsu, owner of Trolley 5 Brewpub and president of the Alberta Hospitality Association.
“It will be a very welcome boost for all the restaurants along 17th Avenue.”
During the Flames’ ill-fated run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2004, Tsu’s Trolley 5 was Melrose Cafe and Bar, one of several bars that helped coin the Red Mile moniker that 17th Avenue SW has used at every appearance. of the Flames in the playoffs ever since. This year, with a performance currently leading the division, fans are already beginning to show up in droves after the game. And after a 9-1 blowout win over the struggling Arizona Coyotes, hopes are high that the Flames will play a decent amount of late-spring hockey, something the Red Mile institutions will enjoy every minute of it.
“It was an incredible run in 2004 and we look forward to another deep run from the Flames this year,” Tsu said.
However, fans and restaurants alike might want to temper their expectations of any significant business benefits along the Red Mile, at least during the first round. Concordia University sports economist Moshe Lander said for real financial impact on 17th Avenue SW, the Flames must avoid another “blackout” amid high expectations like in 2019 when the team topped the Western Conference only to be ejected in the first round.
He said fears of the team coming up short again could cause some cynical fans to stay home and wait for a second-round appearance before opening their wallets to go to games or the Red Mile.
“I freely admit, I am a lifelong Flames fan. And I’m not sure I want to get my hopes up in the first round because I’ve seen this story as recently as a few years ago,” the Calgary-based economist said.
Lander said that while the Beltline and downtown watering holes may see additional traffic, it could be at the expense of bars and restaurants in other areas of the city. He said if Calgarians spend money on a night out for a Flames playoff game, they could forgo other spending at businesses closer to them.
They are going to suffer for the success of the Flames. We are simply moving economic activity to where we would gather to watch Flames games,” Lander said.
If the Flames stay hot, they still have a chance to clinch the top spot in the Pacific Division, a position they’ve held for most of the season and one that would ensure home-field advantage for at least two weeks. first rounds of the playoffs if they advance.
The Flames have seven regular-season dates left, the next one being a meeting with the Blackhawks in Chicago at 6 pm on Monday.