New York City’s first Canuck hockey sports bar opens

New York has always had a host of sports fans who follow professional baseball, football, basketball and hockey and wear their Yankees, Mets, Knicks, Giants, Jets, Rangers hats with pride. And they often gather at various sports bars to watch games.

But Dennis Ladouceur, a Canadian and former Wall Street firm COO and transplanted New Yorker, feels like the city is missing one major hangout: a sports bar dedicated to hockey fans. In December 2021, he opened The Canuck on Ninth Avenue in Chelsea to appeal to the New York area’s legion of hockey fans who follow the New York Rangers, New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils, as well as fellow Canadians. who are fans of the Montreal Canadiens or Toronto Maple Leafs.

He said The Canuck appeals to a broad demographic, including “Canadians, ex-urbanites and visiting Canadians, hockey fans, sports fans and locals looking for a clean and friendly neighborhood pub.”

Although professional ice hockey is Canada’s national sport, Ladouceur noted that “Madison Square Garden has over 20,000 fans at every Rangers game.” Also, most sports bars favor baseball, football, and basketball, ignoring hockey.

“The city desperately needed a place where hockey is the first priority, on the big screens, where hockey fans can come together and watch hockey together,” he said.

New York’s first hockey-focused sports bar generated word of mouth, drew crowds to watch hockey games and built a niche but loyal following.

When Ladouceur quit his finance job during the pandemic, the time was right to make the leap into fulfilling his dream. Having no experience in the restaurant business, Ladouceur did his homework by meeting with a group of restaurant people to “better understand the costs, disadvantages, benefits and requirements associated with the industry.”

He wanted to open the Hockey Bar in Chelsea because of its proximity to Chelsea Piers and the ice rink. He says there are about 1,500 people involved in his amateur hockey league, and many of them find their way to The Canuck for dinner or a beer “almost every night,” he said.

He hired a restaurant consultant who pointed him in the right direction in hiring the right staff, both front and back of house, drawing up the menu and identifying the necessary caterers.

The souvenirs at The Canuck go beyond hockey and delve into Canadian culture. He pointed out that “there are tons of pictures of iconic Canadians, Canadian sports moments, where consumers can enjoy their Canadian beers and eat poutine (fries and cheese covered in gravy). Everyone orders poutine, not just Canadians, he said.

He financed the opening of The Canuck with his own personal funds, supplemented by investors who were friends and family.

The restaurant has an area of ​​2000 square meters, filled with twelve tables, with a capacity of 65 seats. The bar has 15 chairs and has outdoor seating with three or four tables for eight to a dozen people.

Ladouceur says the menu specializes in burgers, club sandwiches and Caesar salads. It also offers a few specialty cocktails like the Caesar, the Canadian version of the Bloody Mary made with Clamato juice instead of tomato juice, and the Maple Old Fashioned, a classic whiskey but made with maple syrup.

The menu includes pulled pork sandwiches, chicken tenders, buffalo chicken wraps and the impossible burger. Beers on tap include a number of Canadian brands including Labbatt Blue, Collective Arts, as well as American and Irish brews.

“We wanted the food to be appropriate for a Canadian pub. I don’t want to recreate the food industry, but to offer simple, quality food,” he explained.

Business boomed in late May and early June as the hometown New York Rangers made a playoff run, beating the Pittsburgh Penguins and Carolina Hurricanes before falling in seven games to the Tampa Bay Lightning, who have won the last two Stanley Cups. “The bar would go to capacity for every Rangers playoff game and the energy of the crowd and the games were amazing,” he said.

Ladouceur used a variety of strategies to spread the word about The Canuck’s opening, including targeted ads in certain Canadian Facebook and Instagram groups and sponsoring local hockey teams at the nearby Chelsea Piers.

When the pro hockey season ends in late June, he plans to host events like birthday parties and work parties, weekly trivia nights that will keep regulars coming until the next National Hockey League season begins in the fall.

He expects the summer to be slower, but also imagines Yankee, Mets and Blue Jay fans will continue to bar hop. He introduced Saturday and Sunday brunch and added more outdoor tables.

When I visited The Canuck the night of Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals, the joint was hopping. Ladouceur prepares for the crowd of hockey fans, wearing a Moosehead Brewery T-shirt and looking relaxed but busy.

The bar is littered with Canadian and hockey memorabilia with photos of Canadian-born celebrities such as Celine Dion, Martin Short, John Candy and William Shatner, as well as hockey cards for the 1994 Rangers team, his last Stanley Cup winning team.

He estimated that about 20% of his customers are Canadian. “Canadians drive by, see the flag and have to stop, and there are more Canadians in the neighborhood than you would expect,” he said.

Asked if he will show the Yankee game tonight, Ladouceur says, “We’re a hockey bar, so it’s going to be the Stanley Cup on every screen.” The Yankees will have to wait until the NHL season officially ends.

He said the keys to its future success are “consistency, making sure we maintain the quality of our food and maintaining our staff, because of the atmosphere and the energy they create.”

Ladouceur worked hard but had fun during his first six months of owning the city’s first exclusive hockey bar. “I want it to embody the Canadian spirit, to be a Canadian bar so that when Canadians dine out, they feel at home,” he explained.

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