No dough for Danny

Brian
Brian Jones
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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.

It’s confusing.

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).

 

Horrible history

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.

 

Better option

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 bjones@thetelegram.com

Organizations: American Hockey League, Toronto Maple Leafs, Manitoba Moose The Telegram

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Quebec, Halifax Moncton Saint John Toronto

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Recent comments

  • james
    May 27, 2011 - 15:57

    and why did the other teams leave, most player don,t want to play here period

  • chris
    May 27, 2011 - 14:26

    W MCLEAN - Would you like to share what makes this unsound?

    • W McLean
      May 27, 2011 - 19:36

      The fact that the proponent seems to need an annual taxpayer subsidy is prima facie evidence that the proposal is unsound on its own merits. If it were self-financing, he wouldn't be begging for handouts. How come Danny Millions can't afford a few thousands?

  • chris
    May 27, 2011 - 10:24

    Chris - May 27, 2011 at 09:04:24 sums it all up nicely, Brian may need bigger glasses to see through the pure piece of garbage this is.

  • Chris
    May 27, 2011 - 08:55

    What a bunch of sensationalistic rhetoric! Of course the cynic in me would give you some credit and say that you do this intentionally to drive readership? Nah, that would be giving you too much credit. The only statement you said that made any sense was "It comes down to basic economics." Unfortunately, you did nothing to quantify that statement. I'm neither for or against a $500,000 travel subsidy, nor should you or government be without a proper quantitative cost-benefit analysis. For example, assume 4000 fans per game at $20 per ticket and 40 home games per year. This immediately generates $3.2 million in revenue which means about $200,000 in provincial sales tax revenue. Spin-off sales tax revenue from concessions, hotel stays, etc. would likely at least provide a break even point and may actually come out positive. But of course that type of editorial is not going to drive readership, is it?

    • W McLean
      May 27, 2011 - 10:59

      (4000 * 40)/$500,000 = $3.13. Why not charge $23 a ticket, instead of having the taxpayer subsidize the difference between that and $20? It also has the added benefit of generating another 15% to that sales tax haul.

    • Chris
      May 27, 2011 - 11:22

      W MCLEAN - Should your approach be taken in all investments governments make. Why have a department of business or ACOA? Is this just the danny basher inside you coming out, your your believe in this type of economics? And government shouldn't investment to spur economic development?

    • Bill
      May 27, 2011 - 12:16

      New Money - A lot of money will come from - the players of the new team that don’t live here right now same as the teams that come here to play the St. John’s team will travel from outside the province, fans of the visiting team travelling to St. John’s, also fans from outside the city. In the case of Hockey, would the airport benefit from visiting teams coming to and from the province and the home team travelling in and out of the province. (Airport Tax) How much money will visiting teams spend on buses to and from the airport and between the hotel and the rink? (Fuel and Business Taxes) Game nights - money spent on parking, food, beverage and game souvenirs. (Sales taxes) Maybe the Province should consider having the flag on the teams jersey and players helmet, it would be advertising costs not a subsidy. (Like artist going to out of province festivals) It seems the only group receiving subsidies is "pro hockey", other groups or shows such as The Republic Of Doyle and festivals are not receiving subsidies.

    • W McLean
      May 27, 2011 - 13:15

      Indeed. Why should the government act as banker of last resort to otherwise unsound business ventures?

  • hockey
    May 27, 2011 - 08:36

    When the fog devils played here there wasn't enough interest to fill the stadium, what has changed. The reps for the buisness comunity of St. John's want the govt to spend the tax dollars from the province, the whole prov not the city, to bring the team in. They say it will be good for tourists, who will come to St. John"s during the winter to watch hockey. Where is the benefit for anywhere else but the city. Let the buisness comunity of the city get together a come up with the money. The prov govt should not get involved

  • David
    May 27, 2011 - 08:17

    Standing O!