Both the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames will return to the ice for the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs this Saturday. The two teams faced off in an exhibition game Tuesday. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS

Red Deer bars, restaurants ‘excited’ to have sports back

The return of professional sports is expected to provide a boost for Red Deer bars and restaurants.

“We rely a lot on sports and … it’s exciting to have them back,” said Tyrone Malcomson, general manager of The Canadian Brewhouse in Red Deer.

Both of Alberta’s NHL teams will begin their Stanley Cup playoff journeys on Saturday, as the Edmonton Oilers play the Chicago Blackhawks at 1 p.m. and the Calgary Flames play the Winnipeg Jets at 8:30 p.m.

“Having both those teams in the playoffs is the result we’re always hoping for, especially in Red Deer, with us being right in the middle and having a lot of Flames support on one side and Oilers on the other side.

“That’s something we want for our business — the staff are making money and it’s a fun environment to work in,” said Malcomson.

The Flames and Oilers played each other in an exhibition game Tuesday night.

“It was just an exhibition, but we already saw some people in here with jerseys,” Malcomson added.

The NHL isn’t the only returning sports league; a shortened MLB season began earlier this month and the NBA’s return to play begins Thursday, with the Toronto Raptors playing its first game Saturday.

Malcomson says safety measures are in place at the restaurant, but suggests anyone with concerns regarding COVID-19 should stay home.

Nancy Sim, general manager at the Boston Pizza in south Red Deer, says it’s too soon to say how the return of professional sports will impact the restaurant.

“It is exciting with the exhibition game (Tuesday) night, and of course Saturday with the playoffs starting, but we don’t know what it’s going to be like,” said Sim.

“People may still be up in the air about coming out. We’re not at full capacity and we have our tables spaced out, so that hopefully, people can feel a bit safer about coming out — there is that physical and social distancing that we have at our restaurants.

“Plus, all of the staff are wearing masks and we have extra sanitizing.”

Sim says business has been “OK” since reopening.

“It is summer months, so even though restrictions have been lifted, there are still people going camping, barbecuing and doing all kinds of outdoorsy stuff,” she said.

Dustin Harper, a manager at Bo’s Bar and Stage in Red Deer, says he’s “excited” for the return of sports as well.

“I’m looking forward to seeing a bit of normalcy come back. Sports are huge for that,” said Harper.

“We can’t do our normal live music and events like that, so it’ll be exciting to get a room full of people cheering like last night for the Battle of Alberta.”

Harper says in past years, the NHL playoffs have helped fill the venue, especially when the Oilers and Flames are in action. The establishment was busy for the Raptors’ championship run in the 2019 playoffs as well.

“It won’t be the same this year. We won’t have people milling around the room and things like that; people will be at their tables. That will make it a little easier on our end to manage,” he said.

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