So, a guy who rose to power by promising “no more giveaways” is out of office barely half a year before he tries to convince the people of Newfoundland (and Labrador) to be suckered into another senseless giveaway.
I refer, of course, to former premier and popular patriot Danny Williams, who — having saved the province’s offshore oil resources from the giveaway-happy Liberals — this week asked the province for $500,000 each and every year for his hockey buddies.
He insists he’s not the potential buyer of the Manitoba Moose, but he’s all over the news, just like in the old days.
Williams claims the $500,000 annual government subsidy (which was denied) is necessary for St. John’s to get an American Hockey League team.
The request for dough wasn’t from him, he insists — it was from St. John’s Sports and Entertainment (SJSE).
SJSE, some taxpayers might recall, receives $1 million to $1.5 million per year from the City of St. John’s.
It operates a terrific facility — Mile One Centre — that for the past few years has essentially served as a mighty nice rink for minor hockey.
SJSE and St. John’s city council have some gall asking the public for more money.
After all, the geniuses at the city are directly responsible for the debacle — “money pit,” in the vernacular — that Mile One Centre has become.
A decade ago, about $40 million was spent to construct Mile One, even though the city had only a five-year agreement with the Toronto Maple Leafs to operate their farm team in St. John’s.
The mind reels.
Would you buy a house that might last only five years?
Even after the St. John’s Maple Leafs were hauled up by their skate laces and moved to Toronto, city councillors continued their ineptitude.
St. John’s immediately and fortuitously landed a major junior team in the Quebec league, but one councillor with dubious scouting abilities derided it as “high school hockey,” an ignorant appraisal that was typical at city hall.
At the time, Younger Boy asked me what major junior hockey was. I told him, “They’re the best teenage hockey players in the world.”
In a city the size of St. John’s, major junior hockey is more feasible, economical and affordable — for owners and fans — than minor pro hockey, and probably more fun.
Outfits such as the Saskatoon Blades, Brandon Wheat Kings, Peterborough Petes, Oshawa Generals and benchfuls of other teams have hit the ice decade after decade, some for half a century. St. John’s should learn something from them.
There has been a noticeable silence from Halifax, Moncton and Saint John.
They’re good hockey towns, but we don’t hear rumblings from them about vying for a vaunted AHL team, even now when the Moose are wounded and about to be put down.
Possibly, the hockey fans and moneymen in Halifax, Moncton and Saint John are satisfied with their major junior teams. (By the way, whatever happened to that Saint John Sea Dogs team, which joined the Quebec league the same year as our sadly departed Fog Devils? Oh, right. The Sea Dogs, Quebec league champions, are playing this week in the Memorial Cup tournament.)
It comes down to basic economics.
If the AHL can be profitable in St. John’s, Danny should bring them, and good luck to him.
If not, don’t ask for a government giveaway. Here’s an idea, Mr. Former Premier: offer some equity in return.
We know you are big on public equity.
And here’s an idea for Tourism and Culture Minister Terry French: set aside $500,000 per year, get a mortgage and build a quadplex for local kids to play hockey in.
Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org