Case study: Watching the World Ice Hockey Championships at the Famous Three Kings

By Stuart Stone

- Last updated on GMT

Good Finns await: Fans of ice hockey playing countries, such as Finland, Russia and Sweden, gather in numbers at the pub for the matches
Good Finns await: Fans of ice hockey playing countries, such as Finland, Russia and Sweden, gather in numbers at the pub for the matches
Paul Eastwood of west London’s Famous Three Kings in west London, counts the World Ice Hockey Championships as one of the biggest drivers of cash and footfall at his award-winning business.

Fixture list – 22 April - 6 May

Monday 22 April

Premier League – Chelsea v Burnley – Sky Sports

Betfred Super League – Catalans Dragons v Castleford Tigers – Sky Sports

Tuesday 23 April

Premier League – Tottenham v Brighton – Sky Sports

Wednesday 24 April

Premier League – Manchester United v Manchester City – Sky Sports

Friday 26 April

Gallagher Premiership – Sale Sharks v Bath Rugby – BT Sport

Premier League – Liverpool v Huddersfield – Sky Sports

Royal London One-Day Cup – Somerset v Essex – Sky Sports

Saturday 27 April and Sunday 28 April​ – Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend

Saturday 27 April

Premier League – Brighton v Newcastle – BT Sport

Premier League – Tottenham v West Ham – Sky Sports

EFL Championship – Sheffield United v Ipswich Town – Sky Sports

EFL Championship – Norwich City v Blackburn Rovers – Sky Sports

Guinness Pro14 – Dragons v Scarlets – Premier Sports

Guinness Pro14 – Cardiff Blues v Ospreys – Premier Sports

Guinness Pro14 – Glasgow Warriors v Edinburgh – Premier Sports

Gallagher Premiership – Exeter Chiefs v Harlequins – BT Sport

Gallagher Premiership – Wasps v Saracens – BT Sport

Royal London One-Day Cup – Middlesex v Sussex Sharks – Sky Sports

Betfred Super League – Wigan Warriors v Castleford Tigers – Sky Sports

Sunday 28 April

Gallagher Premiership – Worcester Warriors v Gloucester Rugby – BT Sport

EFL Championship – Leeds United v Aston Villa – Sky Sports

Premier League – Burnley v Manchester City – Sky Sports

Premier League – Manchester United v Chelsea – Sky Sports

Royal London One-Day Cup – Worcestershire Rapids v Birmingham Bears – Sky Sports

Women’s Super League – Brighton v Arsenal – BT Sport

Monday 29 April

Premier League – Leicester City v Arsenal – Sky Sports

Tuesday 30 April

Champions League – Semi Final first legs – BT Sport

Wednesday 1 May

Royal London One-Day Cup – Northamptonshire Steelbacks v Yorkshire Vikings – Sky Sports

Thursday 2 May

Betfred Super League – Wigan Warriors v London Broncos – Sky Sports

Friday 3 May

Premier League – Everton v Burnley – Sky Sports

ODI Cricket – Ireland v England – Sky Sports

Saturday 4 May

Premier League – Manchester City v Leicester City – Sky Sports

Sunday 5 May

Premier League – Huddersfield Town v Manchester United – Sky Sports

Premier League – Newcastle United v Liverpool – Sky Sports

Twenty20 Cricket – England v Pakistan – Sky Sports

Monday 6 May

Premier League – Bournemouth v Tottenham – Sky Sports

The Morning Advertiser​ spoke to the three-time winner of the Great British Pub Awards’​ sport category about what makes three weeks of sport seldom seen or played on these shores so special, here’s what Eastwood had to say:

morning a 1

The event

The World Ice Hockey Championships last for 17 days, this year they run from 10-26 May, in Slovakia.

The time slots are 3.15pm and 7.15pm during the week and then there are games all day at the weekend from 11.15am through to 7.15pm. They are held every year, which makes it ideal from a business perspective.

The Famous Three Kings has been showing ice hockey for many years now. We start promoting the championships on social media months before they start and, as we get closer, we increase our advertising, window decorations go up and we put up flags for all the nations.

I’ve been here for over five years now and know all the main supporters from each nation. They actually do most of the leg work for me – for example, there are a group of Finnish women who create events linked to the championships, post to the Finnish community in London and drum up support. They even tell me how many people to expect so I can ensure I have the right number of staff on and a viewing area that is big enough to hold their group.

I am looking forward to this year’s championships because the UK is back in the top division for the first time in ages. I normally try and mingle with the guys during the matches and it will be nice to be part of the banter for a change.

The fans

The World Ice Hockey Championships are my favourite three weeks of the year – the fans are so passionate that they stay to watch not just their own team but the games afterwards as well.

We have a core group of Russians, Slovaks, Finnish, Czechs and Swedes who come every year, we see the same faces and they are like a family together. Win or lose they are cheering on each other’s teams – when they are not facing each other – and the friendships, socialising, togetherness and love of the game are just as important as the game itself.

If Finland reach the final then we know we will get to capacity; some people will even travel two to three hours to watch the game here.

morning a 5

Out of all the sporting events we show, the ice hockey fans have the highest spend per head. Unlike most major sporting events, the championships are squeezed into a tight schedule; each nation can play four games in week, which means we do see a lot of the same faces sometimes as much as 10 times in the 17-day period. Lots of the fans will take holidays or half days just so they can come in and watch every game.

The sport I would say the World Ice Hockey Championships is closest to is rugby, the fans love to mix, drink and socialise together and the banter is great.

Like the rugby, the fans just want to have a great time and there is never a hint of trouble. We encourage customers to wear team colours and bring flags in and often the supporters come in to the pub early to add their own decorations.

The trade

The World Ice Hockey Championships have a massive impact on sales, though it’s hard to put an exact figure on it because there are football fixtures at the same time. The day of the week that the games take place and the performance of the teams can make a big difference.

Ideally we want the major teams to progress to the final stages and for their big games to be played in the evening or at the weekend. If we have a perfect storm of Finland progressing all the way to the final, playing the majority of their games at the weekend or in the evening, then we’ll be quids in.

Another factor is the host country; those that only have a one-hour time di­fference are best. If the championships are in Russia where the time difference is two hours, some games will start at 10am in the UK. If the big teams have too many early morning fixtures, that will a­ffect our takings.

This year the championships are in Slovakia so it will be interesting to see how many of our Slovak customers return home to watch the games, which could a­ffect business.

The food and drink

Burgers and sharing platters are really popular; things like nachos and wings that everyone can dive into go down particularly well.

Drinks-wise, ice hockey fans like premium spirits and beers – especially Czech beers – and they often buy our two-pint glasses or eight-pint towers so they can sit at the table and not miss any of the action.

Because of the social aspect, they love to drink shots so I always make sure I order extra Tequila, Sambuca and Jäger.

They are the least price-conscious customers; having a good three weeks of sporting fun is their priority.

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The entertainment

The ice hockey crowd are a lot more sociable than other fans, they love to mix with each other. The pre and post-match atmosphere is very important to them and they will often stay all day eating and drinking and then partying with the DJ into the night.

We don’t really have to do anything special, it’s all about creating the right atmosphere so customers want stay in the pub dancing and partying all night.

We have Slovakian and Finnish playlists on before, during and after the games, which our customers love. This has to be zoned correctly as Finnish ice hockey rock music isn’t to everyone’s taste. The Eurovision Song Contest is on at the same time as the ice hockey and the fans love that too, so we make sure we show it.

The most important thing is to commit to showing all the games with sound and a good party atmosphere.

The ice hockey will clash with football and some other sports and it will take time to build a following, but don’t lose heart, if you don’t get anyone the first time the temptation will be not to bother showing the next game, but commitment and consistency is key.

Try and identify a group of supporters near your venue, often countries have a website, Facebook page or meet-up group in the area, for example ‘Finnish in London’. You can send a message to these groups to let them know you will be showing the games. Once you start getting a few people in, they will tell their friends and your reputation will spread by word of mouth. Try and go above and beyond to exceed expectations with some decorations and playlists from the countries that are playing.

If you start getting people in to watch the games, go and have a chat with them, and before you know it they will start doing all the hard work of advertising and spreading the word for you.

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