If there’s one thing you can say about billionaires, it’s that they know good value when they see it.
I’d like to think that’s why the Flames’ owners finally decided to bring in Jaromir Jagr, who I would much rather have seen in a Canuck uniform this year.
You know what else provides great value to Calgary? The Saddledome. Originally built to house the Flames in 1983, and home to the Winter Olympics in 1988, the Saddledome may be getting a little long in the tooth, but it still serves its purpose and adds a little beauty to the Calgary skyline.
But hey, billionaires didn’t get to be billionaires by preserving the natural beauty. Nor by passing up a chance to suckle at the public teat.
Which is why the Flames not only want the city to build them a new stadium, but they are demanding that the Saddledome be torn down as well.
And I mean, after the Oilers and their billionaire owner, Daryl Katz, successfully extorted a new stadium out of the City of Edmonton, why wouldn’t Murray Edwards expect the same public largesse?
The irony, of course, is that if Calgary actually were to give in to the Flames’ demands, the only two publicly funded NHL arenas in Canada would be in Alberta, a province that has continually birthed the most conservative politicians and political parties in the country. Yes, Alberta, the home of free market arena capitalism:
But seriously, if there’s one thing we should know by know, it’s that capitalism is built on socialized costs and privatized profits. In many respects, this is exactly how billionaire owners got to be billionaires, so why wouldn’t they keep going back to the well?
The only thing standing in the way is Calgary Mayor, Naheed Nenshi. Nenshi, who may be Canada’s most popular mayor, has been adamant in his unwillingness to burden Calgary’s taxpayers with the cost of financing the Flames’ ability to siphon more money out of the city’s hockey fans. And make no mistake, that’s exactly what the Edwards and Flames want to do here. They want to increase revenues. Revenues for the Flames are expenses for Flames fans. But unlike other businesses that might invest in their capital stock, in order to generate more revenues, the Flames want Calgarians to pay for the privilege of paying for NHL hockey.
You can tell that Nenshi is starting to get to not only the Flames, but also the NHL, because Bettman has become increasingly involved in the attempts to extort money out of the city. And much like the successful campaign in Edmonton, Bettman is relying on a variety of hockey journalists that always seem to have the inside scoop from the NHL:
And as part of that campaign in the local media, Bettman and the Flames management have all but encouraged Calgarians to vote out Nenshi in the upcoming election. But if there’s one thing Calgarians hate more than Edmonton, it’s being told what to do by smug lawyers from out east. Just ask Pierre Trudeau.
Predictably, this attempt by Bettman to interject himself into the middle of Calgary’s civic election is not going well.
But hey, this wouldn’t be the first time Bettman and NHL have taken a political misstep in the last couple of weeks. As I touched on last week, the NHL needlessly inserted itself into the controversy surrounding Donald Trump and his criticism of professional athletes. Bettman assured us that the NHL is apolitical, and the only reason that the Pittsburgh Penguins would be visiting the Trump White House is out of respect for the institution of the Office of the President. Given all of this, I suppose the message we can take away from all this is that the NHL thinks the Office of the President should be respected, but mayors can go fuck themselves:
Finally, I want to end with a request.
I have no idea how this will turn out, but given that Nenshi and the City have indicated on more than one occasion that they are willing to make a significant contribution to the construction of a new arena, just not willing to foot the entire bill, it is likely that some sort of deal for a new arena will eventually be worked out.
If and when that happens, Calgarians will wind up shouldering at least one third of the cost, given that was the City’s last offer, summarily rejected by the Flames. So we could expect that the final debt burden will be higher than that, if a compromise is to be reached. That being the case, I hope that when they finally demolish the Saddledome, they consider keeping the name for the new arena. After all, it would be rather appropriate:
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