While an NHL all-stars charity game in Atlantic City on Saturday will finally bring relief to hockey-starved fans, a tourism official is hopeful that transforming the city into a temporary hockey mecca will also relieve patron-starved restaurants and casino floors.
"Even though it's not the main goal of the event, this game will certainly create demand for hotel rooms and make a good amount of economic impact in Atlantic City at a time when it's needed," said Jeffrey Vasser, president of the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority, which is sponsoring and marketing the Operation Hat Trick game at Boardwalk Hall with Caesars Entertainment Corp. "Due to the fact that there are no NHL games, and people are looking for anything that can give them their NHL fix, I think this event is going to be huge for us."
As the event becomes more star-studded each day, a Caesars representative said 90 percent of the 10,500 tickets that went on sale through Ticketmaster and the Boardwalk Hall box office last Friday morning had been sold as of 4 p.m. Tuesday. Vasser said he expects the game to sell out well before the puck drops at 7 p.m. — especially since New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur, New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, Tampa Bay Lightening center Steven Stamkos and a wealth of other top performers have been added to the lineup.
In a statement, Don Marrandino, eastern division president for Caesars, said event sponsors are "literally fielding calls on an hourly basis from players looking to do whatever they can to help raise money" for the charity game, and he noted those players will shine "the national spotlight on Atlantic City … allowing the community to showcase what a diverse entertainment destination we are."
"A key tactic in the strategy of revitalizing Atlantic City is offering events such as this at a time when it is most needed," Marrandino said in a statement. "We as a business community benefit from the thousands of fans who will choose to visit our destination during that weekend and we look forward to a great event."
To keep ticketholders in Atlantic City through the weekend, Vasser said the ACCVA and Caesars have been promoting the first of four Albany Devils games taking place at Boardwalk Hall this Sunday.
Though Vasser initially considered moving that minor league game to another weekend — as he believed hosting hockey fans over two weekends would have a greater economic impact on Atlantic City — he said "by promoting to people coming on Saturday, 'You're already going to be in town, so come see the Devils game the next day,' we had a pickup in ticket sales and sold out that game — and I'm not sure that would have happened if it was a standalone game on a different weekend."
For Saturday's game, 30 NHL players have joined the Operation Hat Trick roster to raise funds for families affected by Hurricane Sandy. All proceeds will be donated to the New Jersey Hurricane Relief Fund, the Empire State Relief Fund and the American Red Cross.