CANADIAN CLUB: Tom Pistore, formerly of MLSE, is president of OVG Canada. (Courtesy OVG)

Hockey Comes Home With 2024 NHL All-Star Game At Scotiabank Arena

Opportunities abound for OVG Canada, which already has more than 40 public assembly facilities or parts of their operations under management and is poised to announce its first owned and operated arena in a country where its presence already spreads coast to coast.

And now that Toronto has been named host city for the 2024 NHL All-Star weekend festivities, all eyes will be on one of the most prominent hockey cities in the world and the brands looking to activate and engage fans in and around Canada’s commercial capital, says OVG Canada president Tom Pistore.

“OVG deals with arenas but also with a bunch of other properties like amphitheaters and convention centers,” he said. “I think Canada in general is poised with our stability and opportunity.”

The economic impact alone from the NHL All-Star Game will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, he noted, but tack on the media impressions to promote greater Toronto, the country and the sport, and the result is a potentially potent marketing bonanza, Pistore said.

“Having the game back in Toronto, it’s been almost a quarter century, so it seems like a good time to go back,” he said. “I was there in 2000 when the game was held there the last time at Scotiabank Arena, formerly the Air Canada Centre, a year after the new building had opened.” The building is home of the NHL Maple Leafs and NBA Raptors.

A global city with easy access for visitors, Toronto can easily accommodate hundreds of thousands of people for events like NHL All-Star week.

“The greater Toronto area is now, the last time I looked, 12 or 13 million people,” he said. “The Hockey Hall of Fame is there. The venue is located in the downtown core. From a fan experience, Toronto is always a great choice. I just hope it doesn’t take another 25 years to come back.”

Having the NHL’s Canadian office next to Scotiabank Arena is another positive in terms of bringing maximum marketing firepower to All-Star Week, Pistore said.

“Any partner that attaches themselves will benefit,” he said. “It will draw all of the NHL alumni from the various teams. All the key executives and all the key sponsors will come. It’s a great city, a fun city. We’ve got a great food culture. There will be lots of hospitality opportunities and, then from a viewership standpoint, the game being in Toronto will be similar to when Super Bowls are in California or Miami. Given all of the allure, they tend to draw more fans in person and via broadcast.”

As with other major sports, all-star events have moved from actual competition to exhibition-type offerings like skills showcases that minimize the risk of injury, he said.

“It attracts a different fan, a younger fan, to see what (Leafs ?) Mitch Marner can do in a skills competition,” Pistore said. “That almost replaces the value of having a competitive game. You’ve got to grow your fan base and it starts when they are 10 or 12 years old.”

An announcement was imminent about OVG Canada’s first owned and operated arena, which will be in Hamilton, Ontario, Pistore said.

“Tim Leiweke (OVG chairman/CEO) with his time understanding the Toronto market especially but also the Canadian market, I think we are going to aggressively look at great opportunities to provide our investors with returns and that could range from participating in NHL venues, minor league venues, festivals and opportunities around amphitheaters and music in a few markets. We’re aggressively looking to partner with some key groups and that will evolve over the next few years.”

(Editor’s note: OVG is parent company of VenuesNow.)