The headline read, “World Junior Hockey Championship out of reach for St. John’s: Breen” yet the calendar was indeed displaying Feb. 20.
Nope, this wasn’t April Fool’s Day.
Maybe Danny Breen was trying not to giggle, instead playing the mayoral equivalent of a straitlaced Ron MacLean perched to the left of Grapes.
That’s what we wondered this week, when a poker-faced Breen revealed, in apparent seriousness, “We’ve had a look at it” … the “we” being St. John’s and the “it” being the World Junior Hockey Championship.
Yes, that World Junior Hockey Championship. The one that’s been held in Toronto’s Air Canada Centre, the Bell Centre in Montreal, Edmonton’s Rexall Place, Ottawa’s Canadian Tire Centre and the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary.
And we — St. John’s — had a look at it.
If this is indeed true, and someone from city hall and/or St. John’s Sports and Entertainment, the board that oversees the most underutilized and one of the most expensive 6,000-seat rinks in the country, “looked at” bidding for the World Junior Hockey Championship, then it’s official: they’re all delusional.
But I have a better idea.
The 2026 Winter Olympics.
Think about it. Lake Placid held an Olympic Games. Why not St. John’s? Get the Logy Bay slopes on the go again for the downhill. Spruce up Mile One for the hockey, curl at Bally Haly, and stage short track at Feildian Gardens.
Of course, a sliding venue would have to be built for the bobsleigh, luge and skeleton, and I’m thinking Shea Heights. A ski jump could be modified off the No. 7 hole at Pippy Park’s golf course. But we’d have to shut down the Outer Ring Road for a couple of weeks (can’t have the Norweigans landing on motorists).
It’s all folly, of course, as ridiculous as this kooky world junior thing.
I might suggest instead of dreaming in Technicolor, perhaps the city and SJSE focus on accommodating Dean MacDonald and Glenn Stanford, and the 40-plus nights they’re proposing to Mile One with an ECHL franchise they have in their hip pocket.
But this is St. John’s, and in keeping with Mile One’s long, bizarre tradition of knocking heads with prospective clients, there’s always drama of one kind or another with the downtown rink.
Derm Dobbin found that out when he landed a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League franchise over 10 years ago. Dobbin fought tooth and nail over his Mile One game-day rental charge. Believing the matter had finally been settled, imagine Dobbin’s surprise when he later learned the score clock was an extra charge?
I’m not kidding.
Almost as absurd as when Mile One management approached the St. John’s IceCaps back in 2014 about moving up the start time for one of the Calder Cup final games to the morning, in order to resolve of some kind of scheduling conflict.
Goes without saying Danny Williams nearly lost it on that one.
Then there’s curling. Warren Hansen, who for all intents and purposes ran Canadian curling, was so infuriated with Mile One at the 2005 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, he swore Curling Canada would never return to St. John’s again.
Luckily for St. John’s, Hansen had retired by the time Curling Canada awarded the 2017 Brier to the city.
Paul Boutilier, who oversaw the World Curling Tour for a spell, was less than impressed with Mile One during the 2004 Players Championship.
In a letter to then-SJSE chairman and councillor Keith Coombs, Boutilier wrote: “The invoice given to Mile One Stadium from St. John Ambulance for services rendered at the curling event was in turn marked up to a 50 per cent profit level without the knowledge of the World Curling Tour and the client, St. John Ambulance. Costs were not only concealed, but a mark-up placed on the services. The blatant inclusion and mark-up by Mile One in the St. John Ambulance example leads to mistrust and an example of business practice that I'm sure an SJSE board member would not be proud of. This makes all the other numbers in the closing document tainted, in our opinion.”
In 2004, the president of the national figure skating association took a smack at Mile One following their Skate Canada event, which drew disappointing crowds.
Turns out that prior to and during the figure skating event, Mile One launched ticket sales for Rex Goudie and Hilary Duff concerts which, in Skate Canada’s view, hurt its gate.
“Certainly in all my years,” Skate Canada CEO Pam Coburn said at the time, “we’ve never had an experience where the venue put on ticket sales while we were in the venue, and in this case, they put on ticket sales for not one, but two different events.”
In fairness, most of these occurences took place before the current council and SJSE board, but the history of tomfoolery with the building is alarming.
And we didn’t even mention the 50 grand that floated out the door unaccounted for last year.
Which brings us to 2018.
MacDonald and Stanford have a hockey team, an ECHL franchise. Atlantic Sports Enterprises Ltd., owner of the St. John’s Edge, does not, otherwise it would not have proceeded with the ongoing arbitration process.
Hockey is not the be all, end all, but it is critically important, one would tend to think, to the operation of Mile One Centre.
Former SJSE chairman Gerry Smith said as much in The Telegram: “It’s important to have as much entertainment down there as possible, and it’s important to have a hockey team,” he said in 2008.
Slice it or dice it however you please, but SJSE has effectively maintained that rather than have two different owners for two different sports sharing the facility — a trend that’s in place with nine of the 10 teams in the National Basketball League of Canada and major junior hockey teams — it has thumbed its nose at MacDonald and Stanford, the ECHL and 40 dates.
Same building that has on its calendar:
March — 10 events, seven of which are NBL Canada games, although a Toronto Maple Leafs alumni game was added Friday
April — four events, one of which is an NBL Canada game
May — nothing
June — one event, and a two-day trade show
July — Bryan Adams concert, that was added to the calendar Friday
August — nothing
Hardly an overwhelming agenda, yet SJSE feels it is in a position to shrug and dismiss pro hockey?
“Nah, thanks but no thanks, we’ll take a pass.”
One of the duties of St. John’s Sports and Entertainment, one could assume, is to be a purveyor of Mile One, a facility owned by the people of St. John’s.
To turn down business of this degree is clearly a breach of that responsibility.
So here we go: if the current ECHL deal goes south — and Mile One loses out on hockey next season and the critical 40 dates attracting people to a moribund downtown which could use a little shot in the arm — the SJSE board from top to bottom has to go.
Wake up council. How much more proof do you need?
Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor. He can be reached by email email@example.com Follow him on Twitter @TelyRobinShort