The group that hopes to bring the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League back to St. John’s took a big hit recently when a request to the provincial government for assistance in team travel was rebuffed.
Apparently, the trio of St. John’s businessmen who are fairly close to getting a deal done to transfer the Acadie-Bathurst Titan to St. John’s for next season ran into a snag — make that a bear trap — when the $300,000 or $400,000 they were hoping to secure from the government was outright rejected.
That group and a second group hoping to land an ECHL pro franchise for St. John’s are hard at work hoping to make something happen for the 2011-12 season, though the ECHL crowd wouldn’t object to putting things on ice for a year.
Still, nobody is saying anything for the record, preferring to keep their cards close to their chest.
This much, however, we do know: the two groups will be responsible for picking up the tab for incoming teams’ travel. Keeping that in mind, and taking into consideration you’re paying for your own travel to and from this island, we’re talking a substantial dollar.
So, the junior crowd went to Confederation Building looking for help. And the door was slammed shut.
We can only assume that, from a political standpoint, it’s probably not the best idea to provide private business with money when amateur sports teams are crying out for help.
Is the value of sports tourism taken into consideration when the QMJHL/ECHL proposals roll across the desks on Confederation Hill?
Consider a report by TourismSaskatoon (albeit a 2009 study) which indicates the economic impact of the Western Hockey League’s Saskatoon Blades for the 2008-09 season was a staggering $11,129,145.
And if you think that number is high, consider the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets which, according to a University of British Columbia study, brought a whopping $31,502,482.31 into the Kelowna economy during the 2008-09 season.
Taken into account was the direct spending of the Rockets organization and players in the City of Kelowna, regular season spectator spending, playoff spending by the Rockets and spectators, special events spending and pre-season camp spending.
Now, I’m not certain if major junior hockey, or pro for that matter, here can translate into 30 million big ones for the city’s coffers, but certainly something has to be counted for the 40 nights a year down at Mile One.
If nothing else, it’s 20 additional rooms at a local hotel for 40 nights, and for 40 nights 2,500-plus folks make their way downtown. Someone has to stop in for a beer or a coffee some place.
Or so you’d think.
Of course, the real benefit comes when the team, whether it’s pro or junior, progresses to the point where it’s considered a contender, and goes deeper into the playoffs.
In the case of junior, the hosting of a Memorial Cup would bring the city and province advertising it couldn’t otherwise afford.
Whether this falls into the lap of the province or city, that’s debatable. And while it’s easy to simply dismiss anything that can even closely measure up to a subsidy, the merits of an anchor tenant at Mile One must be explored, even if it is private enterprise.
So while a handout of cash to help offset travel costs might be off the table, there are other ways to help a hockey team overcome the financial hurdle that comes part and parcel with travel to Newfoundland.
There are, in other words, ways to cut and trim here and there to leave an outfit a few extra nickels that can be put towards other expenses, namely the travel budget.
But the will has to be there.
And I’m not entirely certain it is.
Just wondering, but when the finalists came out for the 2010 Mount Pearl team of the year award, couldn’t they have found a team that, well, won something? ... So, if the NHL chooses not to take heed in the words of Sidney Crosby — the game’s most marketable product — and do something about hits to the head, chances are the league will never seriously look at the issue. Compared to the progressive-minded NFL and the savvy NBA, the NHL appears to be a bit hokey at times ... Only six teams in the provincial Scotties of Hearts, and one of those foursomes is the veteran Laura Phillips team. Are we not developing any young curlers these days? If we are, we’re not seeing them at the senior levels ... If Summerside, P.E.I. — Summerside! — can support a major junior hockey team, and the town’s going hard at the QMJHL, you have to think St. John’s can do the same ... The latest goings-on in Corner Brook makes you wonder how much longer the Royals can last. First, Royals’ management elects to take their games off the radio, the thinking being that it’s cutting into gate receipts. Like someone will stay home, sit around the kitchen table and listen to the radio rather than watch the game live. Then, in its infinite wisdom, management considers staging Corner Brook’s “home” games in Stephenville or even Gander, only to announce a few hours later that, “No b’ys, we’re staying put. So, hockey fans, come on out and support your Royals!” What kind of backward, mindless thinking is that? Not exactly the sharpest knives in the drawer, are they? If the Royals are considering ways to cut costs, how about a good, hard look at the roster, and the wads of cash they’re paying out to players? ... Terry French, the minister for sport and recreation, has an announcement for three upcoming sporting events set for 11 a.m. Monday in C.B.S. Not much is being said, though it’s a good bet it has something to do with the Newfoundland and Labrador Games. The next Games on the table are the 2012 Summer Games and while this is pure speculation, we wonder if C.B.S. will be hosting those? ...
Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor. He can be reached by email firstname.lastname@example.org