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Campbell's Cuts: Tough to feel sorry for Canadian franchises

Saku Koivu celebrates his first period goal against the Ottawa Senators on November 20. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Saku Koivu celebrates his first period goal against the Ottawa Senators on November 20. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

It was truly heartwarming to see Montreal Canadiens president Pierre Boivin come to the aid of Canadian team owners last week. But you have to wonder what his end game was when he carped about the sagging Canadian dollar.

Regardless, it was pretty pathetic.

For those who missed it, Boivin used a speech to Montreal’s Board of Trade last week to sound the alarm bells for Canadian NHL teams; the six franchises many people have been led to believe are the sole driving force behind any of the league’s financial success since the lockout.

“We better not return to the 78-cent dollar because we’ll be in the same position we were before the lockout,” Boivin told reporters after his speech. “If we calculate against an 80-cent dollar, we’re not any further ahead than we were before the lockout.”

Hmmmm, that’s funny, because the new collective bargaining agreement that was supposed to solve all the financial woes and create a competitive and financial utopia for all 30 teams was struck in July 2005. The average worth of the Canadian dollar during that month against the U.S. greenback was 81.2 cents.

What people forget about the new CBA is that the surge in the Canadian dollar hadn’t even happened when the deal was agreed on and nobody was predicting such a robust economy in Canada the loonie would eventually be on par with, and at some points exceeding, the American dollar.

So, what exactly was Boivin saying? Was he saying the CBA the owners signed more than three years ago was flawed from the very beginning? Gee, that’s duplicitous. The CBA was just fine for Canadian teams when the loonie was taking the greenback out to the woodshed, but now things are different? How different are they when the Canadian dollar is essentially worth the same as it was when the CBA was struck?

Boivin, of course, would never suggest his boss and the 29 other owners in the league signed off on a flawed CBA. The three years since has proven beyond a reasonable doubt the owners’ maniacal quest for cost certainty caused them to ignore a host of other side effects that have turned this CBA into a great one for the players and another bad one for the owners.

Or was Boivin carping about the inequities in the system when he let slip the Canadiens are paying about $18 million into the revenue sharing pot? Probably, since that whopping amount pretty much takes care of any savings the Canadiens would have with a salary cap.

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If so, perhaps Mr. Boivin should give his head a shake. The good times for the Canadian franchises have been relatively short and followed a period of more than a decade when any Canadian team not named the Toronto Maple Leafs was in danger of becoming extinct. A few of them even did.

Funny how these Canadian teams didn’t mind greasing their palms with the American dollars that came with the Canadian Assistance Plan, one that forced big-market U.S. teams to prop up those north of the 49th parallel. Back then, the big bugaboo was the onerous Canadian tax system and how it was killing teams. It got so putrid the Canadian government came perilously close to a bailout package for all six Canadian teams, one which the Leafs and Canadiens would have been only too happy to accept.

The day it was announced, I stood with my mouth agape as Maple Leafs president Ken Dryden stated the tax break would help the Leafs compete for players against large-market American teams such as the Philadelphia Flyers. It’s probably safe to assume Dryden would never, ever vote for such an insidious scheme now that he’s a federal politician.

Forget also that Canadian teams get tax breaks all the time in the form of corporations that purchase tickets and write them off as a business expense. I know of one small businessman who buys a pair of Leafs season tickets every year and claims them as a business expense. He then sells off the majority of the seats for much higher than face value and makes a killing on them. So, he takes in a couple of Leafs games a year, gets a break on his taxes and makes a little tax-free money on the side.

What a country.

So excuse us if we don’t shed too many tears for the downtrodden Canadian franchises. And please, spare us if we ask the Mr. Boivins of the NHL to stop their blubbering.

Ken Campbell is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesday and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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