North American sports, as well as countless businesses, have been shaken up like never before. COVID-19 has presented us all with challenges we could have never imagined, but are working through each and every day.
At Jet Ice, we know the ice making industry isn’t the only sector who has had to pivot and deeply reflect during these uncertain times, but we felt it important to document some of the major learnings and changes our hockey, figure skating, and curling partners and customers have experienced.
The Impact of COVID-19 on Ice Sports
Due to coronavirus, the NHL season paused its regular season in March 2020.
“In light of ongoing developments resulting from the coronavirus, and after consulting with medical experts and convening a conference call of the Board of Governors, the National Hockey League is announcing today that it will pause the 2019‑20 season.” – Gary Bettman
As with other crowd-gathering ice sports, season pauses and delays have caused concern for financials. A DBRS Morningstar report warned that even with a return to full stadiums in 2020, certain factors could precipitate revisions to the base-case forecast, which could pressure ratings.
The coronavirus’ effect on the global economy is expected to have disrupted sponsorship renewal, seating and ticket sales, concession, merchandise, and parking revenue – something Jet Ice has been closely monitoring.
The Impact of COVID-19 on Ice Making
Alongside our partners, Jet Ice faced great uncertainty as to how COVID-19 would impact business and sales. As the NHL, Curling Clubs, and other ice facilities shut down, the need for our product and specialization was threatened.
However, we could have never predicted the opportunity we were granted in supporting arenas, all over the world, with inventory supply to begin investing in their ice making processes, as well as sponsorship textiles during their downtime.
We are so very thankful for the continued support we have received.
However, while private facilities across the globe have begun setting the bar for arenas to consider reopening as the COVID-19 curve begins to flatten in each state or province, it’s important to ask:
What’s been lost during the shutdown?
What will the impact be long term?
The Impact of COVID-19 on Small Town Arenas
The reality is, the NHL isn’t the only one taking a hit.
Many small-town arenas have closed and may never open back up, as is, again. Without fees from members, clubs, teams, and associations, paying for ice time, profit has undoubtedly crashed, leaving independent owners with little hope.
While some facilities have been able to offer other services and prepare for socially distanced summer hockey camps and figure skating, some may simply have to skip the 2020 season altogether.
As many older, smaller arenas begin to close, we predict we’ll see a rise in corporate investments into community complexes. Outdated arenas will, unfortunately, be torn down or repurposed and multi-purpose sports centres will take their place – offering more opportunities for local youth and families.
While it can be difficult to say goodbye to our beloved, local arenas, the truth is that older ice facilities were simply not constructed to support the requirements of leisure activities that exist today. The costs of energy can be crippling, and without ice rentals, bills just can’t be paid.
Outdated arenas can also cost more to run as they are ill-equipped with old technologies that make it that much harder to convert ice spaces and keep ice at the right temperatures.
For those small arenas who do survive the pandemic, recovery is not impossible, but it will be challenging, and we are here to support those arenas in any way that we can.
The Rules For Arenas Reopening
Passionate about ice and sports, smaller arenas and facility managers are working hard to keep you safe as arenas align with provincial and state guidelines for reopening.
New requirements include cleaning and disinfecting high touch areas (e.g. doors, counters, railings), providing access to hand sanitizer and hand wash station, having staff maintain physical distancing, and wear face coverings when possible, and additional precautions.
Arenas are also beginning to roll out strict rules for those looking to book ice time; people are not permitted within areas if they’re showing symptoms or feeling unwell, have traveled outside of Canada in the past 14 days, or are a close contact of someone who has tested positive or are waiting for test results for COVID-19.
According to reports, a private facility in Ottawa opened May 21st, 2020, but was soon shut down again as COVID-19 safety codes weren’t being followed properly. Notably, this private arena was booked for 14 hours a day over a two-week period, attracting Claude Giroux, captain of the Philadelphia Flyers.
As for young people looking to skate, regions have begun looking at ways to protect young people and their families. With limitations on the number of people permitted on the ice, in the area, and in dressing rooms, a return to hockey practice and skating is possible.
“A precedent has been set on how this can be done safely. “The city rinks could open and roll out the same plan. It works. Hockey players and figure skaters will know how to follow the restrictions.” – Derek Popke, Vancouver Hockey Schools Ltd
Update: August 6th, 2020
The NHL announced its Return to Play Plan on May 26 with 24 teams in competition for the Stanley Cup.
The tournament began Aug .1 with the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, which include 16 teams paired in eight best-of-5 series and a round-robin among the top four teams in each conference to determine seeds for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Jet Ice will continue to monitor these ongoing stories and updates.