Since the big expansion announcement has come, I have been writing a series of articles about why the Quebec City bid – which seemed like a sure-fire winner – failed in its attempt to get its beloved Nordiques back, despite doing their utmost to comply with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s terms.
I have grouped the many factors into three general reasons:
1. The greedy NHL expansion fee.
2. The imbalance of the conferences.
3. The corrupt policies of the elites that run Canada that has prevented more Canadian teams from joining the NHL in the past and has now led to the Canadian dollar losing one quarter of its value against the American one.
In the end it was factor 3 that was the most decisive in preventing Quebec from rejoining the NHL. In my first my first article about this factor, I mentioned how the deaths of two people, schoolgirl Rehtaeh Parsons raped, tormented, and humiliated until she committed suicide because her contemporaries decided she “was not good enough to be one of them”, and the Georgian luger, Nodar Kumartashvilli, blamed for his own death by Canadian officials at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010 despite the protests of experienced lugers that Canada had built an unsafe luge track, were apt symbols of the policies of the corrupt elites that run Canada. In neither case was punishment given out to the behind-the-scenes people who had helped cause their deaths.
In the same article I pointed out how Ontario went from being the wealthiest province in Canada to becoming a have-not province. The Ontario Government’s recent decision to reward all its supporters of the 2015 Pan American Games despite the games coming in over-budget is a good example of how the corrupt reward their followers despite a poor performance.
But it was the feud listed in my second article that was probably THE real reason why Quebec City did not get a team. This was between two prominent Quebec businessmen, francophone Pierre Karl Peladeau, CEO of Quebecor, the Nordiques would-be owner, and anglophone Geoff Molson, CEO of the Montreal Canadiens. Peladeau put himself in the ridiculous position of publicly attacking Molson’s ownership of the Canadiens on racial grounds and then trying to obstruct his business activities while at the same time seeking to become Molson’s partner on the NHL’s Board of Governors. In such a situation, Quebec’s bid was probably doomed before the first dollar was paid and before the first shovel went into the earth to build the new arena. In effect, Quebec unnecessarily spent $400 million because the ownership issue, which should have been properly settled before things went ahead was unacceptable in the NHL’s eyes.
Right now, behind the scenes, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman is trying to find a suitable owner for a new Quebec City NHL franchise. In 2010 he made a tour of the cities that lost their teams, Quebec, Winnipeg, and Hartford and stated the terms for readmission to the NHL which were fan-base, arena, and ownership. It is an embarrassment both to the NHL and to Bettman personally to issue such terms, and then see a city with a great fan base spend nearly $400 million of its tax dollars on a new arena and then not get a team because the prospective owner was unsuitable. Most likely Bettman is maneuvering things to place Mario Lemieux, currently part owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins into a position of fronting an acceptable bid to place a new Quebec team in his native province (see previous article for more details). But this delay in granting a franchise to Quebec City is a symptom of the corruption that makes placing new teams in Canada difficult.
In such a Canada, where evasion of responsibility leads to innocent deaths with no punishment meted out, where government waste is rewarded, where personal feuds among the elites are probably the main factor why fans in a hockey-loving city cannot get their team back, are there any other examples of the corruption that keeps Canada’s membership in the NHL to a minimum?
And one does not have to stray far to find such examples, one of the best being the ownership of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The poor Maple Leafs fans have had to suffer two long periods of bad ownership, first with Harold Ballard and then with the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund. The result is that the Leafs are tied with the St. Louis Blues for the longest current streak without winning the Stanley Cup at 49 years.
You remember Ballard, that wonderful Canadian patriot, who along with ex-Canadian Los Angeles Kings owner Jack Kent Cooke, led the fight to keep the WHA from merging with the NHL, thus keeping Quebec, Winnipeg, and Edmonton out of the league, who was jailed for income tax evasion, and then let a pedophile ring operate out of Maple Leaf Gardens. There are no Stanley Cups for the Maple Leafs during his tenure. After his sorry ownership the Leafs iced some respectable teams until the Teachers Pension Fund bought the team.
I happened to know some teachers and if you listened to them talk it was easy to see why the Leafs performed the way they did during their ownership. To the teachers, the Leafs were simply an asset to squeeze as much money out of as possible. There was no sense of responsibility that the team was more than just a disposable asset, that there was no need to ice a respectable, competitive team, that the ownership had to take a real interest and invest assets to improve things.
The fans also played a role in the team’s poor performance. Since before I was born there has been mindless worship of the Toronto Maple Leafs, perhaps justified in the 1960s when the team won four Stanley Cups, but completely incongruent with Ballard’s and the teachers’ ownerships. The team would get automatic sellouts and large quantities of its merchandise sold no matter how bad the team was.
When one watches a Toronto Maple Leafs home game today on television, one sees large sections of empty seats at the start of every period. Why are not these hockey fans in their seats to see their beloved team play? Because these “fans” are probably not fans at all, but seats owned by corporations and other sponsors who are the only ones who can afford seats at the Air Canada Center. To them these seats are simply ways of entertaining and impressing important clients whose business they solicit. There is no need to be in your seats at game time. It is more important to discuss and conclude business deals in the bar and lounge areas.
With such mindless money coming in, the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund could not care less. The result was that during their entire ownership period, they amassed a poor record that incredibly surpassed Ballard’s ownership; not one single playoff game was played. In the end they sold the team because they believed they were not getting the investment dividends they believed they should have gotten from their ownership of the team.
Of course the teachers supported the NHL’s policy of imposing stiff monetary penalties on anyone trying to establish a new NHL franchise within a 50 mile radius of an existing team. They did not want direct competition to compare their bad record with. That is why there is no Hamilton, second Toronto, or any other southern Ontario team.
The teachers may be gone but not their legacy. Toronto is still paying for their ownership. This year they hit rock bottom and got the number one draft pick. Barring a miracle, the years of not winning a Stanley Cup will reach 50 and continue to climb. There is no Hamilton, second Toronto, London, Kitchener, or Oshawa NHL team.
Meanwhile in Canada there is a myth that the NHL led by American Gary Bettman and his gang of American owners is anti-Canadian. That in itself would be laughable even if it were true. Bettman and the American owners do not have to do anything. All they have to do is put their feet up and let Canadians do the job for them while they laugh their heads off.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are considered to be the richest team in the NHL. With such wealth, it should be expected that they ice competitive teams continuously, just like the New York Yankees do in baseball. Instead under two bad ownership regimes, the Leafs became a laughingstock.
Such is an example of the corruption in Canada. Such is an example of why Quebec City is still waiting for the Nordiques to return.