A five-minute bike ride down the road from Calvin de Haan’s offseason home in the Ottawa suburb of Carp, Ontario, sits Ridge Rock Brewing Co., the business de Haan co-founded in 2018 and has co-owned since.
But for more than a year after COVID-19 began, Ridge Rock sat empty, unable to host its loyal patrons inside its historic brick building at Carp’s central intersection.
De Haan thus spent much of the pandemic not only navigating the NHL’s rapidly evolving schedule — and playing through a broken leg to participate in the Blackhawks’ 2021 season — but also helping his business navigate some tough times.
“The community and Carp and Ottawa in general has been very appreciative,” de Haan said. “We can’t show enough gratitude for the support they’ve shown us over COVID.
“The staff we have in the building was awesome, as well, keeping the lights on and being smart with labor and all that kind of stuff. And, obviously, my partners did a great job steering the ship.”
The 30-year-old Hawks defenseman joked he simultaneously tries to spend “as much time and the least amount of time possible” at Ridge Rock — he can “get caught [up] in there” if he doesn’t manage his time. He needed to juggle a lot of other things this summer, including his own wedding.
But the residents of Carp and the people running the brewery every day describe de Haan a bit more generously — as a passionately involved co-owner — than he humbly describes himself. Lindsey Osborne, Ridge Rock’s head of sales and marketing, has found his assistance invaluable.
“He’s the first person to volunteer if there’s anything somebody needs done,” Osborne said. “Or if we’re short-staffed, he’s always the one volunteering to do things. If we’re ever having any meetings or tastings, he’s always here to do it.”
De Haan’s dad, Bill, works full-time for Ridge Rock as a delivery driver and “all-around handyman.” But with Ridge Rock — like many restaurants recently across the U.S. and Canada — encountering shortages that reduced their kitchen staff, Bill went into action, cooking barbecue so they could keep offering food in addition to beer.
With Bill preoccupied, Calvin helped pick up the slack with deliveries. By his own doing, he’s hardly perceived as an NHL celebrity in the community — more like just another Carp guy who happens to play in the NHL — but people still were “so pleased and surprised to see him at their door.”
“He has even volunteered to help on the canning line before,” Osborne said. “We didn’t take him up on that one.”
Despite the hard work of all involved, there have been legitimately rocky and worrying moments over the last year and a half at Ridge Rock — “just like every other business on the planet,” de Haan said.
Ontario provincial restrictions during the pandemic have been some of the strictest in North America. Indoor dining only became allowed again this summer, and even now, capacity is limited.
Across the street, one of the few restaurants in town — Carp, population 1,965, has no chains — closed down about a month ago because of staffing shortages and lack of business.
“There’s one little cafe, there’s another one opening, and then there’s us and one other pub,” Osborne said. “[The restaurant closing] was really unfortunate. It hit a lot of people in the community hard and made them realize that if they don’t go out and support these local businesses, we’re not going to be here.
“It was a very scary thought that we didn’t know when we’d be able to open our doors again — or, if they opened, if we were going to be able to keep them open.”
Realizing their need for supplemental revenue, Ridge Rock has pivoted to not just delivering but also shipping their products throughout Ontario. Drinkers from Toronto to Thunder Bay can choose from nine beers (and one hard seltzer) brewed in-house. Ridge Rock bolstered their marketing efforts, too. The winner of an ongoing raffle on their website, for example, will receive a keg, kegerator and — fittingly — de Haan-signed hockey stick.
“We really worked on our online ads and doing home deliveries and stuff like that,” de Haan said. “But we were pretty restricted. We could really only do the supply and demand for [so long]. Online orders were the big moneymaker for us to keep the lights on.”
De Haan’s focus understandably has shifted back to hockey. His fellow owners and employees held a send-off party for him Sept. 3 on the Ridge Rock patio. Through five regular-season games, de Haan leads Hawks defensemen with a 53.0% even-strength shot-attempt ratio while averaging 18:17 of ice time.
Back in Carp, Osborne can see the light at the end of the COVID tunnel. The brewery recently celebrated its three-year anniversary of opening. Sales have increased, the full food menu is available again and Ontario’s indoor dining capacity restrictions are expected to lift within a few weeks.
That good news is enough to keep de Haan cheerful even during the Hawks’ painful, winless start.
“It was good, once things were open, to see some familiar faces inside and everyone smiling,” de Haan said. “That’s the atmosphere we wanted to create: A local watering hole where you can go with friends and enjoy yourself.
“We knew we were going to be able to get through [the pandemic], just from our plan of attack. We have a strong backing in our little community there, so that goes a long way. That made a huge difference.”