Belfast Telegraph

Big Odyssey match is a winner for the economy

By Heather McGarrigle

A special ice hockey match in Belfast — featuring a US team playing outside North America for the first time — could generate hundreds of thousands of pounds for Northern Ireland’s economy, it has been claimed.

The Boston Bruins are set to play |the Belfast Giants in the Odyssey Arena on October 2. A team of potential US investors is visiting the province as guests of Invest Northern Ireland at the same time.

A spokeswoman for the economic development agency said: “Coinciding with the visit of the Bruins, Invest NI will host a delegation of prospective investors who will use the visit to assess the inward investment potential of the region.

“They will each have individually tailored programmes arranged, including visits to meet local companies, existing inward investors in their sectors and senior government officials.”

Invest NI is sponsoring the team’s visit — and the spokeswoman said the visit would “help to cement the image of a Northern Ireland as a modern region that can compete on the global stage, particularly as it will be televised in the US to a wide audience”.

The ice hockey game will mark |the 10th anniversary for the Odyssey and for the Belfast Giants, who have been hosted there since the arena opened.

The match is expected to attract over 4,500 out-of-state visitors and generate over £800,000 for the economy, as ice hockey fans across the UK and America travel to Belfast for the event.

Ken Yaffe, senior vice president of the National Hockey League (NHL), said: “This is the first time an NHL team has ever played in Northern Ireland and we are all very excited about the opportunity.

“We were extremely impressed with what we have seen in Belfast. The Boston Bruins are thoroughly looking forward to getting onto the ice in Belfast and intend to show the fans a great game.”

Aubrey Irwin, Tourism Ireland’s head of tourism for Northern Ireland, said: “We anticipate there will be excellent media coverage of the event throughout the USA, placing Belfast and Northern Ireland in the spotlight and helping us to spread the good news and promote Northern Ireland as a premier holiday destination.”

Janice Gault, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Hotel Federation, welcomed the expected boost to the Belfast hotel industry. She said: “Any international event is great for hotels in the city.

“A positive story like this helps people around the world to see Northern Ireland as ‘normal’. It allows us to make the international news, but for all the right reasons.

“The federation has strong links to North America and it’s an important market for us, so a visit by a team like the Boston Bruins is very positive indeed.”

The arrival of the Boston Bruins is a welcome boost for the entertainment venue, after the adjoining Odyssey Pavilion went into administration in May.

Sheridan Entertainments, a holding company which funded the bar, restaurant and cinema area of the complex, was wound up last week by the High Court, as was Strike Four, which ran a restaurant in the Pavilion.

Belfast Telegraph