In the heart of the Canadian Prairies, bankers made no pretense of working once the puck dropped to start the men’s Olympic hockey semifinal between Canada and the U.S.
The television at RBC Dominion Securities’ office in Winnipeg, Manitoba, that’s normally tuned to business news had the game on so staff could watch, said Tony Tryhuk, branch manager of the commodity futures-trading division.
“We will still work if the phone rings but given our clients are Canadian and American I would suspect it’ll be like an Easter Monday,” Tryhuk said in a telephone interview before the game began. “I think it’ll be pretty quiet.”
The Canadians won 1-0 on a second-period goal by Jamie Benn to advance to the gold-medal game against Sweden, the 2006 winner. The U.S. will play Finland for the bronze. The deciding game will be played Feb. 23, with Canada attempting to be the first team to retain its championship in 22 years.
Today’s game was expected to test television viewership figures for the 2010 Winter Olympics final when Sidney Crosby notched the overtime winner to beat the Americans and win Canada its record 14th gold medal of the Games. That matchup was watched by 16.7 million Canadians, more than half the country, according to the game’s broadcasters. It also drew a reported 27.6 million U.S. viewers, the most since the U.S. ‘Miracle on Ice’ victory over the Soviets in 1980.
Trading volume during the game from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. on the Standard & Poor’s/TSX Composite Index, Canada’s benchmark equity gauge, was 29 percent lower than the 5-day average before the Olympics started.
Ryan Hanley, a gold analyst at Mackie Research Capital Corp., said he was one of the lucky ones at his firm that got to watch the game while his colleagues were stuck in the office. He was at the packed Real Sports Bar & Grill near the Air Canada Centre, where the Toronto Maple Leafs play.
“It was an amazing game,” Hanley said. “It was a great North American-style hockey game where it was really close and both teams played really well.”
About 20 lawyers and staff at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP in Calgary watched the game from the boardroom, said managing partner Maureen Killoran.
“We’re trying to have a good Olympics-life balance,” she said in an interview between periods. “But we have to serve our clients as well.”
Killoran watched the women’s game yesterday on her phone at a hair salon, everyone crowding around to watch the tiny screen.
“The stylists even turned off their blow-dryers when they played the national anthem,” she said.
About 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of Sudbury, at Vale SA (VALE)’s new Totten nickel mine, workers on the underground shift watched the hockey game on TVs set up for the occasion.
“We know what’s on people’s minds,” said Lance Howland, a geologist at the mine.
Wireless carriers in hockey-mad Canada have been gearing up for such big events for months if not years. Rogers Communications Inc. (RCI/B), Canada’s biggest wireless carrier, secured a 12-year C$5.2 billion ($4.7 billion) deal in November for the broadcasting rights to the National Hockey League, whose top players are competing in Sochi. The Toronto-based company followed up that bet this week by spending C$3.29 billion to acquire additional spectrum to help it beam more hockey programming to its smartphone and tablet users.
George Cope, chief executive officer of Montreal-based rival BCE Inc., said the 2010 Olympics when Canada beat the U.S. to clinch the hockey gold medal saw a massive surge in data traffic that convinced him to invest more in sports content and technology. BCE was the official telecommunications partner to those Winter Games and transmitted 65 million text messages during the Vancouver events.
Bell Mobile TV had more than 1.2 million subscribers by the end of 2013, up 66 percent from a year earlier, Jason Laszlo, a spokesman for Montreal-based BCE said today by e-mail. While the Super Bowl earlier in February garnered the biggest mobile TV audience for BCE, some Sochi events such as the women’s and men’s hockey games have had comparable views, and these games are on track to be the most-viewed mobile TV event ever, Laszlo said.
Mobile data use doubled at Rogers from 2012 to 2013, Patricia Trott, a company spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.
Gurvinder Mahil, 45, was among hockey fans who watched the game on TV at a McDonald’s restaurant on Burrard Street in Vancouver’s downtown business district.
“I’m a taxi driver,” he said, eyes fixed on the screen. “My taxi is sitting outside and it’s a busy day.”
Toronto’s city council approved a change to liquor laws for the gold medal game on Sunday morning. Bars and cafes in most of the city will be allowed to serve alcohol at 6 a.m., one hour before the 7 a.m gold-medal final between Canada and Sweden begins.
Olympic hockey fever has even gripped the offices of the leaders of Canada and the U.S. On his flight home yesterday from the North American leaders’ summit in Mexico, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper went on the plane’s public address system to announce that the Canadian women’s hockey team had rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat the Americans and clinch a record fourth gold in overtime. Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama had bet cases of beer on the outcomes of the two matches.
“President Obama, I will be looking forward to my beer,” the prime minister said.