By The Canadian Press - Thursday, May 16, 2013 - 0 Comments
EDMONTON – The on-again-off-again deal to build a new rink for the Edmonton Oilers…
EDMONTON – The on-again-off-again deal to build a new rink for the Edmonton Oilers is on — again.
City councillors and the Edmonton Oilers agreed Wednesday to split the cost of the final $30 million needed to green light the wavy-shaped steel-and-glass structure in the city’s downtown in time for the 2016-17 NHL season.
“This has been a long and difficult process,” Mayor Stephen Mandel told councillors. “We need to make sure that we build a city that attracts and retains the younger generation.”
Construction is to start next spring and the city plans to pay off some of its debt through increased tax revenues from shops and businesses expected to spring up around the arena.
The total cost, including the rink and surrounding infrastructure, comes in at $604.5 million.
Under the arrangement, the Oilers are to pay $161.5 million, the city $279 million and another $125 million is to come from a ticket tax.
Last week, Mandel and political leaders from surrounding regions voted to seek another $25 million from the province under a regional grant program. The city says it will seek an additional $14 million in grants for a community rink attached to the project.
“The result today is a landmark agreement that enables our city to move forward in an enormously positive way,” said Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz, who was not at Wednesday’s council meeting, but spoke with reporters via speaker phone.
The decision saves a resurrected deal agreed to by council and Katz in January, but which had slipped into limbo after Premier Alison Redford’s government refused to provide $100 million.
Redford and her predecessor Ed Stelmach never promised any direct funding, but city council struck the deal in January anyway, hoping the money would come through somehow.
When it didn’t, councillors scrambled to find alternative sources for the cash.
Last month, they voted to use $45 million in provincial infrastructure grant money. On Wednesday they changed that plan. They now expect that money to accrue from increased tax revenues around the arena.
Political leaders from the capital region narrowly voted last week to back an application for the $25-million provincial grant.
That left $30 million. Half of the remainder is to come from Katz and the city expects the other half to be recouped from increased tax revenues arising from the development.
The deal has divided Edmontonians into those who want public dollars to go to the arena, those who don’t and those who are OK with public money, but say the deal is far too lopsided in Katz’s favour.
Last week, Mandel got into an argument with hecklers in council chambers, who demanded he put the arena on a plebiscite.
The city is to build and own the arena and pay for all major repairs and renovations. The Oilers, in turn, are to pay $6 million a year in lease payments and pay for day-to-day arena upkeep.
Katz is to keep all the profits from tickets, concessions and parking for all events — Oilers-related or otherwise. Katz also is to receive $2 million a year from the city in return for advertising for 10 years and to keep naming rights for the building, estimated at $1 million to $3 million a year.
In return, Katz has promised the Oilers will stay in Edmonton for 35 years.
The vote was not unanimous. Coun. Kerry Diotte said the deal was poor for taxpayers when it was first struck in 2011 and is worse now.
“This has morphed into a Frankenstein monster. Even the worst referee in the NHL could see this is way offside,” Diotte told councillors.
Coun. Tony Caterina agreed. He said no one knows for sure if the extra tax revenues from the arena will materialize. The risk tolerance for taxpayers, he said, is “way too high.”
Council’s decision wrote what many hope will be the final chapter in what has become the city’s longest-running soap opera.
The deal has been talked about for seven years and been on a roller coaster for the last two.
Councillors and Katz first shook hands in the fall of 2011, but the deal fell apart a year later when Katz demanded an extra $210 million from taxpayers and refused to meet with councillors in public to explain why.
He also incurred wrath from fans and councillors when he began talks aimed at moving the team to Seattle.
Katz eventually dropped the Seattle threat and the $210-million demand, and in January the two sides resurrected the deal, with Katz off the hook for major repairs to the facility.
Katz — a pharmacy billionaire who owns the Rexall chain of drugstores — is currently tenant of Rexall Place, where the Oilers now play. It’s an arena owned by an arm’s-length city board.
Katz says the Oilers need wider revenue streams to be viable.
He has said he is losing millions of dollars a year, but city council has not been allowed to see the team’s books. The Oilers are ranked in the middle or higher among revenue-producing teams in the NHL.
By The Canadian Press - Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 12:46 AM - 0 Comments
EDMONTON – Even though the money is not all in place, Edmonton city council…
EDMONTON – Even though the money is not all in place, Edmonton city council has given final approval to a deal that would see a new downtown arena built for the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers.
Councillors voted 10-3 in favour of the master agreement with Oilers owner Darryl Katz.
The rink will cost $480 million but $107 million still needed to be raised.
The city had hoped the province would make up that shortfall but Premier Alison Redford has repeatedly said there would be no direct provincial funding for an arena.
On Wednesday, city councillors also voted in favour of using $45 million from the city’s portion of provincial funds for municipal infrastructure to make up for a chunk of the missing money.
By Colby Cosh - Monday, January 7, 2013 at 8:56 AM - 0 Comments
The conventional wisdom on the NHL lockout, usually delivered with a sneer, is that Canadian hockey fans will belly-crawl back to the league uncritically now that all the bickering and all the tantrums have ended. Like all conventional wisdom, it is conventional because it is quite a safe bet. I know I’ll crawl with everyone else: I’m capable of intellectually segregating my fondness for the game of hockey from my loathing of the existing institutions of hockey. (It’s not all that difficult! Nor is it shameful!) What’s different about this lockout is that in the meantime I took the bait of regular-season NBA basketball with enthusiasm for the first time ever. Continue…
By Colby Cosh - Sunday, November 11, 2012 at 6:20 AM - 0 Comments
The Oilers’ owner faces a probe over his gift to the Alberta Tories
The public-relations problems continue to pile up for Daryl Katz, the drugstore magnate who wants a new downtown arena in Edmonton for his NHL Oilers to play in. It has been more than a year since Katz Group and the city’s council arrived at a “framework” for an arena funding deal, with Katz relenting on his insistence that the existing Rexall Place be pushed out of the concert business. That framework fell apart Oct. 18 after Katz made new demands and a previously sympathetic council ran out of patience, calling off negotiations and flinging the arena into limbo.
The city had made major concessions to get Katz to back off on the demand for a non-compete agreement with Northlands, the powerful non-profit that operates Rexall Place (i.e., the old Northlands Coliseum, which now bears the name of Katz’s main pharmaceutical brand). But the two sides remained $100 million short of the full amount for the new building—money that both insisted, despite an endless series of fairly strident refusals from the province and Ottawa, would eventually arrive courtesy of “another level of government.” Continue…
By Colby Cosh - Thursday, November 1, 2012 at 11:47 AM - 0 Comments
The Globe and Mail, by means of outstanding spadework, has accounted for the particulars of all of the $430,000 donated to the Alberta Progressive Conservative party in its hour of electoral need by Edmonton Oilers owner and pharmacy magnate Daryl Katz. Actually, David Ebner and Dawn Walton traced the $430,000 and then some—others with close business relationships to Katz, it turns out, contributed to the PC kitty. But even the $430,000 donated this spring, supposedly in the form of a single cheque, represents more than a quarter of the cash raised by the Tories during the 2012 election period. The party managed to raise just $1.6 million—while spending almost $4.7 million protecting its flanks from the upstart Wildrose Party.
Alberta’s chief electoral officer has promised an investigation into the splitting up of Katz’s hefty donation. (And the opposition parties are calling for Katz to step down from the board of AIMCo, the corporation that manages investment funds for the province, its public pension plans, and some institutional endowments.) But there might be another problem. Step into the time machine with me as we travel back to September 13, 2011 and open the Edmonton Journal:
Has Oilers owner Daryl Katz quietly shifted his home base to Vancouver? That’s the rumour that has circulated in local business circles for months. And while several sources tell The Journal the reclusive drugstore tycoon now spends most of his time on the West Coast, where his children attend school, it’s unclear how much time he still spends in Edmonton.
…Several sources told The Journal that Katz purchased the penthouse condo at the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel in Vancouver, and has lived there for much of this year.
“What I’ve been able to confirm from several sources is that Katz has moved to Vancouver and he’s been there since the beginning of April,” said one well-connected Edmonton businessman.
One city councillor interviewed by the Journal’s Gary Lamphier was not troubled to hear that Katz had moved:
Coun. Bryan Anderson sees the location of Katz’s primary residence as a non-issue, however.
“It doesn’t concern me. There’s a lot of big players in the world who have homes in several places,” he said.
There is one person, however, who might care a little about the location of Daryl Katz’s primary residence: Alberta’s chief electoral officer. A couple of entertaining morsels from the province’s Election Finances and Contributions Disclosure Act:
16. No prohibited corporation, person ordinarily resident outside Alberta or trade union or employee organization other than a trade union or employee organization as defined in this Act shall make any contributions to a registered party, registered constituency association or registered candidate.
…35(1). No registered party, registered constituency association or registered candidate shall, directly or indirectly, (a) knowingly solicit or accept contributions from any person ordinarily resident outside Alberta…
Despite the Journal’s revelations from last fall, I imagine that, all things being equal, Daryl Katz would arrange his affairs so as to qualify as an Alberta resident for tax purposes. It’s hard to say whether those are relevant here, however. The election law doesn’t offer an explicit definition of “ordinarily resident”. (“The place where you send your kids to school” would seem to provide a pretty decent first approximation.) And in the event the definition needs to be explicitly made now, I’m afraid I expect it to be exactly as generous as necessary to prevent an embarrassing refund here.
Nonetheless, the investigation into Katz’s personal $30,000 donation—and perhaps the entire $430,000 he is said to have actually presented—will obviously require a close study of his comings and goings.
By Colby Cosh - Monday, October 29, 2012 at 10:20 AM - 0 Comments
City council holds off building a new Oilers arena
“It’s fairly apparent at this point that Daryl just isn’t that into us.” This wisecrack from Edmonton city Councillor Kerry Diotte concluded a chaotic Oct. 17 in city hall. Diotte has been a critic of the city administration’s deal with Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz for a new downtown arena, but most of the council, including Mayor Stephen Mandel, thought the formula had been found. Katz was to supply just $100 million of the $450-million construction cost, providing maintenance over a 35-year lease. In exchange, the team was to get rent-free use of the building, revenue from all events, control of naming rights and other perks.
Last fall, Katz asked that his upfront $100 million be turned into an annuity of roughly $5.5 million a year over the lease period; the city acquiesced. It also agreed to pay the Oilers $20 million, supposedly to promote the city, over the first decade of the agreement. As the Canadian Taxpayers Federation pointed out, the naming rights alone would be worth somewhere between $3 million and $5 million a year. Katz’s net contribution to the building was already approaching zero.
Then last month the Katz Group informed the city that $450 million would no longer quite cover the building it wanted—and that, by the way, as arena operator it would need another $6-million annual subsidy. The city summoned Katz to an Oct. 17 meeting to explain. When he declined, council voted to suspend negotiations.
Anything is possible now. Before adjourning last week, councillors discussed building the arena according to the existing plan (which cost the city $30 million) or searching for savings. Renovating the existing Rexall Place for around $200 million, an idea long dismissed by Mandel’s bloc, is looking more attractive.
Either way, the Oilers’ lease runs out in 2014. Katz might choose to erect his own ice palace in the suburbs if he is liquid enough. Despite a net worth estimated at $2.4 billion, his miserliness suggests he may not be. (His retail pharmacy business is under regulatory pressure and he is known to have real estate in Vancouver’s flagging market.) If he can’t find a superior market for his NHL team—and no one knows of one—a fire sale may follow.
By Charlie Gillis - Friday, May 11, 2012 at 10:33 AM - 0 Comments
That a twentysomething with time and money might indulge in a bout of self-exposure is hardly a surprise
We could hardly have expected Mary Poppins. Paulina Gretzky was raised, after all, by a former Hollywood starlet with a keen grasp of the male gaze. Janet Jones’s most memorable contribution to American cinema is a swimsuit scene in The Flamingo Kid, where her gym-toned gams emerge seductively from a hotel pool. And Paulina’s father? Well, let’s just say No. 99 was an underrated force in the nightclubs during his bachelor days with the Oilers. Edmontonians of a certain vintage still crack wise about his “scoring” prowess.
So the response last week to photos of Paulina Gretzky getting raunchy in Las Vegas was a trifle overheated. The snapshots—posted by the 23-year-old to her Instagram social media feed—show her bikini-clad and apparently well-refreshed. In one, she sprawls spread-eagled atop male and female pals. In others, she’s seen in suggestive embraces with shirtless men, with a fair bit of mutual groping. Gossip sites pounced, and mainstream media clucked in dismay, even as they peddled the images. None of the pictures involved nudity. Yet the Vancouver Sun described them as “shocking” and “dirty,” warning its readers to “take a look—if you dare.”
That a twentysomething with time and money might indulge in a bout of self-exposure is hardly a surprise—google “spring break pics” to behold the current zeitgeist. More intriguing is the idea that she might do so repeatedly, on purpose. Last week’s mini-scandal came, it’s worth noting, six months after Gretzky created a stir with similar photos posted to her Twitter account, which showed her posed seductively in undergarments and swimsuits, the camera positioned to make the most of her cleavage. A few days later she announced she was taking a break from Twitter, following what she described as “a nice sit down dinner with my dad about social media.”
By Richard Warnica - Tuesday, May 1, 2012 at 10:57 AM - 0 Comments
The one-time most hated man in Canadian hockey is in trouble again
In some ways, the most startling part of this story may be that someone gave Peter Pocklington money again. The former Edmonton Oilers owner and one-time most hated man in Canadian hockey has had a string of financial problems since losing his team in 1998. He declared bankruptcy in 2008. He was charged with bankruptcy fraud in California in 2009. To top it all off, he pleaded guilty to perjury in 2010.
Now Pocklington, a resident of California, is in trouble again. He’s been accused of securities fraud in Arizona. According to documents filed with that state’s Corporation Commission, Pocklington and partner John McNeil overstated the amount of gold they could recover from a surface-mining operation in La Paz county. Using estimates investigators allege are faulty, the two raised more than US$4.8 million from investors.
Securities officials have asked the commission to levy cease and desist orders, fines and restitution payments against the pair. But Pocklington denies doing anything deliberately wrong. “Any errors made in the past were born of inexperience and naïveté, not malice or avarice,” he wrote in an email, “and they were quickly rectiﬁed.”
By Colby Cosh - Thursday, March 15, 2012 at 1:52 PM - 0 Comments
Just don’t ask Oilers’ billionaire owner Daryl Katz to pick up the tab
One hundred million dollars. A one, eight zeroes. That is what’s standing between the city of Edmonton and its planned new downtown home for the NHL’s Oilers. No big deal, say supporters of the space-age barn that would replace aging Rexall Place. That’s a fraction of the cost of a major highway overpass. Done right, say the starry-eyed, it could transform Edmonton’s infamously sleepy downtown. But where is the money going to come from? The city’s sweetheart deal with its richest citizen, Oilers owner and pharmacy billionaire Daryl Katz, left that $100-million gap to be shaded in through the largesse of “other levels of government.”
So far, those other levels have refused to consider it, and pretty convincingly, too. When Rexall Place (originally the Edmonton Coliseum) was built in 1974, the city got help from, among others, the federal agriculture department. But in government circles, the days of that kind of creativity are over. The federal government passed through a period of fiscal stimulus when the financial crisis hit, but wanted the money to go to “shovel-ready” projects. Edmonton’s dream palace didn’t even exist on paper yet.
The messages from under the dome of the Alberta legislature are largely the same now. Asked about the funding gap, Edmonton city manager Simon Farbrother says, “There continue to be informal discussions with the province,” and notes that a provincial election is around the corner in the spring. In an auction for votes, it is possible that new Premier Alison Redford might improvise anything. But Redford’s preferred branding, a close adviser warns, is about “people, not buildings.” Her predecessor, Ed Stelmach, was an old-fashioned pavin’ politician. Redford’s campaign focus—an unsurprising one for a human-rights lawyer—is expected to remain squarely on health, education, and seniors.
By Colby Cosh - Sunday, March 4, 2012 at 6:22 AM - 0 Comments
Reporting from the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, the Edmonton Journal’s David Staples breaks intriguing news about a new idea for discouraging late-season “tanking” by pro sports teams who want to improve their draft position. Reading about Adam Gold’s scheme, I had the pretty firm reaction: “Yeah, this is right. We’ll see somebody adopt this soon.”
Right now, in the NBA and the NHL, teams eliminated from the playoffs are supposedly discouraged from sending out sub-par lineups by the use of a draft lottery. Lottery systems, which basically add some statistical random noise to the end-of-year standings before the draft order is set, have curbed the worst abuses (best exemplified, I think, by the bizarre ending of the 1983-84 NBA season). If a hypothetical NHL team, let’s call it the Deadmonton Boilers, finishes in last place, it is not guaranteed to get the number-one pick. The problem, however, is that the randomization, being random, doesn’t really reverse the powerful incentive to be horrible: finishing in last still gives the Boilers the best statistical chance of getting the number-one pick in the Entry Draft, and guarantees that they will pick no lower than second. Continue…
By Colby Cosh - Wednesday, December 15, 2010 at 2:33 PM - 51 Comments
My hard-to-love Edmonton Oilers debuted their new cheerleading squad, the first ever assembled by a Canadian NHL team, in last night’s 4-1 home loss to the Maple Leafs. Some would have you believe this was a black day for hockey, for one of two reasons. I think we can dispense pretty quickly with the sexism argument; deprecating sexism has led to tremendous social and economic progress in the spheres of activity that matter, but the one thing that anti-sexism has never been able to defeat outright is actual sex. Attractive people still earn more money than unattractive ones, officemates still clamber greedily onto each other occasionally, and televised entertainment businesses still find excuses to put male and female crumpet in front of the camera. To complain about this is roughly as sensible as lamenting Copernicanism.
The more difficult argument is that cheerleaders are an otiose, tacky distraction in a setting where hockey is properly venerated. This argument, I think, is much more dangerous than the tendency to which it is opposed. We’ve seen Americans learn to treat baseball like an Orthodox icon—a field of dreams, a holy temple wherein the national genius finds perfect expression. The overall result for baseball of this kid-glove handling by poets has been a catastrophic loss of actual pre-eminence, as gridiron football, a violent game that accommodates gambling, has emerged as the real national pastime. Baseball struggles on, a sport too conservative and tradition-bound to apply the most rudimentary entertainment standards to itself.
Hockey should never fall into the trap of declaring itself a solved entertainment problem and deciding that marketing is henceforth unnecessary until the end of time. That’s why I like the shootout, in its place, and why I praised the NHL’s research-and-development efforts (in an article that was almost certainly the most influential one I wrote this year). As somebody who didn’t have colour TV at home until I was 8 or cable until age 11, I have a deep respect for the need to appeal to people with faster-paced nervous systems than mine, people who are hungrier for stimulus and who squirm during TV time-outs.
I’m thus the psychic equivalent of four or five information revolutions, each with its own moral consequences, removed from the undergraduates of 2010. The issue might not be whether hockey games should have cheerleaders but whether those cheerleaders should be wearing clothes. The admission of a few extra tarts to the hundreds who already underdress for hockey games should definitely bother us less than the cheesy contortions thought necessary to justify their presence—and I’m not talking about their dance moves, I’m talking about the social-Darwinist nods to “fitness” and the corny insistence on the girls’ “pride” in winning a beauty contest.
What I really find amusing, and in a way frustrating, is that cheerleaders are coming to Canadian hockey so late in history, nearly thirty years after the founding of the Laker Girls. The Oilers franchise has had its hand thrust out into the taxpayer’s puss for thirty years, on the grounds that Edmonton is a “small market” where a professional hockey team needs public dollars to survive. When this claim is put into its true logical form—”Edmonton is a small market FOR HOCKEY”—you would have to be a thunderstruck triple-idiot to believe it. Northern Alberta isn’t a small market for automobile block heaters, it isn’t a small market for snow shovels, and it isn’t a small market for hockey. For hockey, metro Edmonton is a significantly larger market than New York City or Philadelphia.
What makes the failure to accept this elemental fact doubly annoying is that Oiler hockey is marketed pretty casually by those proclaiming the impossibility of profit; really, the fans are left to do most of the work themselves. So even a minor, tentative Veeckian step like hiring cheerleaders is an encouraging sign of something less than total intertia. I think Veeck would say that it is best to either be the first to try a marketing gimmick or the last to hold out against it. Good for the Oilers for going first.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 2:45 PM - 0 Comments
As our Paul Wells reported yesterday, the Prime Minister has broached the subject of an NHL team for Quebec with league commissioner Gary Bettman. And as our Philippe Gohier noted, the proposed arena for Quebec City would be run as a crown corporation. The federal government’s initial contribution to that effort would be $175 million.
The last time Forbes magazine produced valuations for the NHL’s 30 franchises, it put the Edmonton Oilers at $166 million. That was nearly a year ago, but it is unlikely the Oilers have appreciated significantly since, so for perhaps the same amount of federal money that would go toward an arena for a privately owned NHL team, the Harper government could purchase its own hockey team and run that as a crown corporation (or perhaps as a public trust, borrowing from the model of the Green Bay Packers).
The current roster includes a number of young and promising players. With wise management—General Manager Stephen Harper?—the team could be will set-up for sustained success going forward. Indeed, from that standpoint, this would seem a good buying opportunity.
Alternatively, perhaps the Prime Minister could offer to buy any of the six struggling American franchises that are valued at less than the Oilers, with designs on moving that team to Quebec City. In either scenario, why would we settle on owning the arena in which a professional ice hockey team plays when we could own the professional ice hockey team itself?
By Colby Cosh - Tuesday, September 14, 2010 at 12:36 PM - 0 Comments
You knew that when the smoke of an arena controversy became visible, the sports-as-culture warriors would soon come riding over the hill. David Asper pops up in today’s National Post to observe that most of us accept the idea of government funding for high-culture venues like concert halls, theatres, and galleries. “To define ‘culture’ narrowly, without including sports, is elitist,” he complains. (Strictly for form’s sake, I should offer the riposte: what’s so bad about elitism?) “If we are to have a legitimate definition of our national culture, it must be based on the totality of who we are and what we do. Places where professional sports teams play are no less houses of culture than the opera, the theatre or the art gallery.”
The question you should be asking Mr. Asper is “So what, rich guy?” He is, in my view, quite right; sports are part of our culture. I would even argue that they are a morally elevating part of that culture—a medium for the cultivation and display of courage, duty, justice, and fair play (a crucial, almost defining element of our civilization that is not at all the same thing as “justice”). But that premise is not enough, not nearly, to establish that massive public funding for professional sports venues is proper or necessary.
Turn his argument on its head and set aside high culture: what important cultural institutions don’t we depend on governments to build? Would Asper argue that restaurants don’t define a city or that they aren’t places where highly civilized imaginative pleasures are expressed? Doesn’t a good clothing store or a furniture shop have a clear cultural dimension? A shoe store? Aren’t hairstylists, skate parks, comic shops, Apple Stores, recording studios, and the parlours of small-town piano teachers all enablers of cultural expression? Should all these things be nationalized and paid for by the state?
The relevant fact about live National Hockey League games is not that they are not “culture” but that they are owned by a profit-maximizing cartel which limits access and squeezes every penny it can get out of that access. Here in Edmonton, where the owner of the Oilers is trying to get an arena built at staggering municipal expense, you often hear arguments to the effect of “Oh, we bought an art gallery for a non-profit company, so we can certainly buy an arena for a billionaire.” It already sounds preposterous when you put it in plain English like that, and it’s even sillier if you pause to compare the function of an art gallery to the function of an NHL hockey rink.
I am the last person on earth the Art Gallery of Alberta would pick as a defender, but an art gallery is at least intended to provide a public good in the strict technical sense: it takes assets nominally owned by wealthy people and makes them available, at a low price not set in a profit-maximizing way, to virtually unlimited numbers of people—without affecting the value of the assets. That, in fact, is the historical origin of public art galleries; they were designed to multiply the benefits of a shared cultural heritage by extracting paintings and sculptures from vaults and putting them before the public in a safe, secure, orderly manner.
NHL hockey is simply not a public good according to an economist’s definition. Game attendance, at least, fails both tests: it’s both rivalrous and excludable, in the sense that you don’t get to attend if you don’t have a ticket, and buying a ticket (at a market-clearing price or lower) excludes someone else from having one. That does not mean there aren’t external benefits from the sale of that private good, in much the same way that there might be positive net external benefits from living near a good bakery even if you don’t buy bread. But using public funds to subsidize that good would still constitute a relatively pure transfer (a theft, some might say) from the people who have no use for it to the people who do. It would be like specifically underwriting pumpernickel production on the premise that bread is, in general, a good thing that is an important part of Western culture (as it certainly is).
Asper, of course, doesn’t come close to acknowledging the wider point that subsidizing NHL arenas is ultimately a means of subsidizing a cartel—of using the gullibility and open-handedness of politicians in one city to threaten those in another. Nobody is discussing expanding the league, and further expansion is difficult in principle; even leaving aside the state of the NHL’s overall finances and the current health of the economy, about thirty teams seems to be the natural upper bound for a competitive structure that isn’t organized like soccer (with meaningful parallel competitions and relegation/promotion between divisions). Quebec’s arena proposal is a means of darting ahead in the queue for troubled franchises in other cities, franchises that are ceaselessly seeking their own sweetheart deals for cheap rent, non-hockey revenues, and other subsidies.
This action is understandable, since Quebec has already been cheated out of NHL hockey by a richer urban rival in the past. But the overall effect is to create an inane arms race, a contest to see who can throw the most money at NHL owners and players. It’s bad enough that cities behave in such a sordid, compromised manner; we really don’t need all three levels of government working together to raise revenues and salaries for a private profit-maximizing business.
By Colby Cosh - Wednesday, September 1, 2010 at 12:37 PM - 0 Comments
Oiler goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin’s trial for the offence of “extreme” impaired driving was the talk of the town in Edmonton yesterday. Khabibulin, 37, may seem a little old to be horning in on the extreme sports craze, but that’s what Arizona charges you with when you’re caught going 70 in a 45 mph zone and you have a blood alcohol content of 0.16%. The Russian, pulled over in February, was found guilty late last week and was sentenced Tuesday to 30 days in jail, the mandatory minimum. He had the bad luck to be busted in Maricopa County, home to the demented Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his “tent city” justice. Continue…
By Colby Cosh - Monday, May 31, 2010 at 5:02 AM - 19 Comments
As an Oilers fan with an audience, I feel it’s my duty to publicly take a side in the civil strife tearing my city asunder. The issue is one no Canadian city has faced since 1996: who should the team take with the #1 pick in the June 25 NHL Entry Draft? Continue…
By Colby Cosh - Friday, February 12, 2010 at 2:21 PM - 24 Comments
A couple of weeks ago, Colleague Gohier mentioned to me with Colleague-ly sympathy that the 2009-10 Edmonton Oilers must be difficult to cheer for. They’re in last place overall in the league, and even after last night’s victory in L.A., the race to the bottom is not close. This is unfamiliar territory for most of the remaining Canadian teams—very unfamiliar indeed for Oiler fans. Few of you outside Winnipeg have any reason to know this, but it’s actually kind of fun in some ways.
It’s not that this version of the Oilers is a gang of colourful lovable losers like the ’62 Mets. “Unlovable losers” might be closer to the truth. But when your team is this bad, there’s a refreshing absence of delusions. You can watch with total detachment, and hate sincerely. No apologizing to yourself for despairing at the way so-and-so kills penalties or the way Mr. X (or, let’s say, Mr. O’S.) won’t battle for the puck. You’re free to loathe the players on a last-place team for their salaries; no, they really aren’t earning their money—it’s right there in the agate type. (Incredibly, this abominable roster is costing the team every cent of the salary cap. They spent to the max and got the min.) And remember all those front-office mistakes you hated at the time? Turns out you were right: they were mistakes, and the outfit is run by idiots. You really could run a hockey team that was no worse than this!—there’s nowhere to go from 30th but up!
Edmonton is a hockey city that was crying out to be nuked—a rotting, ill-ventilated museum for the ’80s Oilers, who grow ever more prominent in the team’s marketing even as the front office conspires to demolish the perfectly adequate building they played in. The reward of the philosopher’s suffering is clarity, and Oiler fans are finally ready to confront the emptiness of two decades of excuses for almost unrelieved mediocrity (excuses parroted by a captive press corps now facing its own credibility crisis, as fawned-over free agents and prospects shatter horribleness records). Remember when the Oilers were bad because of the exchange rate? Remember when they were bad because there was no salary cap? Remember when they were bad because of the inefficient, cumbersome consortium-ownership model? Even the injury excuse has been overused so much in recent years, it amounts to crying wolf. The ’09-’10 Oilers really have had bad luck with injuries, as long as “bad luck” is defined to include signing a run-down 36-year-old goalie to a huge contract in a buyer’s market and having nothing but beer-league backups available.
In the face of all this, it remains literally true that there is nowhere to go but up. If you count Sam Gagner, who is only 20 and is already unstoppable some nights, the Oilers appear to have a legitimate nucleus of first-class prospects. And they’re about to add a #1 or #2 overall draft pick to the mix. This is by virtue of being unspeakably awful, but it’s nice that the league arranges things so that high draft picks follow periods of revolutionary ferment.
By Colby Cosh - Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 8:33 PM - 32 Comments
This is a heresy I normally utter only in the presence of trusted intimates, but this is a special occasion: if I had a playoff series to win and I could take any goalie from Edmonton Oiler history, I’d go with 1996-98 Cujo. And yes, I do mean “any”.
Businessman Peter Pocklington on the politics of envy, legal battles, and why trading Gretzky was the right thing to do
By Jonathon Gatehouse - Thursday, October 22, 2009 at 12:40 PM - 0 Comments
A conversation with Jonathon Gatehouse
Peter Pocklington has had enough ups and downs for several lives. The former Edmonton Oilers owner was once among the country’s most successful businessmen, and ran against Brian Mulroney for the leadership of the Progressive Conservatives. But to most Canadians he’ll always be the guy who dealt away Wayne Gretzky. A new book, I’d Trade Him Again: On Gretzky, Politics, and the Pursuit of the Perfect Deal (H.B. Fenn), offers Pocklington’s take on his controversial career. Today, the 67-year-old awaits trial in California on charges of concealing assets in his US$19.6-million 2008 bankruptcy—sparked by a series of lawsuits over failed health-product and golf ventures.
Q: This book’s stated purpose is to show the other side of Peter Pocklington. Do you think you’ve been unfairly portrayed over the years?
A: [Laughs.] Well, I guess if I had read the press that most had written about me, I would have hated me too.
Q: What do you think is behind that?
A: I have no idea, nor do I care. I suppose most of it is associated with the politics of envy in North America. Continue…
By selley - Monday, August 11, 2008 at 2:30 PM - 0 Comments
Must-reads: David Olive on U.S. election coverage; …Lawrence Martin on the tyranny
In Beijing, in Edmonton and, uh, in jail, all pundits’ eyes are turned to the Games.
The Globe and Mail‘s Christie Blatchford was, predictably, “moved to tears” at various stages of the Olympic opening ceremonies, but was able to snap herself out of it by thinking how many of the participants were “voluntold” to show up by their oppressive Communist overlords. “It cannot be considered unmannerly,” she writes, “to note that as good as the show was, as smashing as the facilities are and as super-successful as the Games themselves probably will be, it all happened like this not only because of Chinese ingenuity, but also because the government could bulldoze homes when it needed land, … spend like a drunken sailor, … [and] detain or ‘re-educate’ anyone who dared whisper the mildest complaint.” It’s a weird column, not least because she quotes anonymous friends back home as if they were informed sources—one of whom suggests, bizarrely, that the Roman Empire was “built on freedom.”
The modern, outward-looking, friendly China “is not a false front,” Lorne Gunter writes in the National Post. “It’s more a sort of parallel China to the old, bellicose, goose-stepping one.” But goose-stepping China still exists, he says, and it’s desperate to keep the “New China bubble” from bursting while the world is watching. By focusing only on that new China, Gunter alleges, the IOC—and the CBC, naturally; can’t forget them!—are propping up the old, crueller version.
By Charlie Gillis - Monday, July 7, 2008 at 4:31 PM - 0 Comments
This is either an amazing put-on, or one of the best pissing matches in…
This is either an amazing put-on, or one of the best pissing matches in NHL history. Brian Burke, the man the Toronto media tirelessly inform us will be the Leafs’ next general manager, just can’t let go of his grudge for Kevin Lowe. So the Edmonton Oilers GM used a recent radio interview to answer crap with crap. The 12-month war between the two execs—Burke still being the nominal GM of the Anaheim Ducks—goes on.
Now Gary Bettman, the NHL’s tiny, imperfect commissioner, has stepped in an attempt to end the unseemly battle. In the spirit of a good linesman, we say leave ‘em, Gary. This is more entertaining than a lot of NHL games (not least those mid-week snoozers out of the southeast).
A bit of background: Continue…