I write in response to the Feb. 23 column in The Telegram by sports editor Robin Short (“Never mind world junior hockey, let’s shoot for Olympics!”) suggesting the current city council is delusional and that the Board of St. John’s Sports and Entertainment (SJSE) should be fired; this column contains several inaccuracies and requires a response.
First, I would like to clarify comments attributed to me regarding the city’s consideration of hosting a World Junior Hockey Championship.
Last week, I was asked by a Telegram reporter to respond to rumours that the city was looking into hosting this prestigious event. I responded, honestly and openly, that we would like to host a pre-tournament event or perhaps a game or two, if the tournament came close to us, such as in Moncton or Halifax. I also made it perfectly clear that the city could never meet the financial commitment, in the range of $15 million, to host a world junior championship. To suggest that we are considering a bid for the whole event is ridiculous and untrue.
Mr. Short’s cynical commentary on Mile One in this and other recent columns does nothing to boost sport tourism or support ongoing efforts to promote Mile One as an attractive sporting venue. Of course, I know that’s not his job – it’s ours. But unlike Mr. Short, the city doesn’t need to go back 10 years to find examples of how we’re doing on that front.
I would like to reassure the public that council is acutely aware of the benefits of having a hockey home tenant at Mile One and of a management arrangement that could potentially reduce our subsidy.
I find it curious that this column references concerns with a Scotties Tournament more than 10 years ago when we have just finished hosting a very successful Brier — an event Curling Canada called one of its most successful — and one for which the hundreds of volunteer organizers have been nominated for a national sports event award. In fact, all of the negative examples referenced in this column are years old.
We are very keen on attracting more events like the Brier. Large sporting events provide an opportunity to promote the city and give the country a taste of Newfoundland culture, of which (most of us) are very proud.
Mr. Short appears to be most anxious for SJSE to make a deal, quickly, with one of the parties interested in bringing hockey to Mile One. I can assure the public that the city, our council and the board of SJSE are committed to seeing hockey return to Mile One. To make that happen, I personally have been involved in many discussions with all parties. We have in no way “thumbed our nose” at any of the parties interested in a management agreement or a hockey franchise for Mile One. Our goal is to do what is best for the facility and, more importantly, for the residents of St. John’s who support that facility in the form of an operational subsidy.
I would like to reassure the public that council is acutely aware of the benefits of having a hockey home tenant at Mile One and of a management arrangement that could potentially reduce our subsidy. The current lease arrangement between SJSE and The Edge ownership group contains an exclusivity clause for bringing a hockey team to Mile One. That group has challenged the exclusivity clause and we are awaiting arbitration to settle that dispute. SJSE cannot negotiate a lease for a hockey team with any group until that dispute is settled.
We will continue to pursue opportunities for hockey at Mile One while abiding with contract law, with anyone who presents a viable option to us.
As the mayor, I have been given a mandate to lead our city efficiently, effectively and with an eye to the future, and if that includes getting to see a game or two of world junior hockey, or other national or international events that are within means, why wouldn’t we explore that, too?
Danny Breen, mayor
City of St. John’s