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I don’t believe in telling people that they have to support their home town pro sports team as mom and pop ticket buyers — and Edmonton may lead the league in those — like it’s some sort of civic responsibility.
With the economy as we knew it two months ago, particularly in Alberta with the oil situation, there were already challenges. Now with layoffs and salary cuts and non-essential businesses closing their doors, maybe never to open again because of COVID-19, pro sports teams everywhere are going to have a tough time getting people to find the cash to sit in the seats when games return.
But there’s another thing.
Most pro sports teams in Canada do an exceptional job with their charitable foundations. But with no games, no 50-50s, no ‘shirt-off-their-backs’ programs, a lot of charities are going to miss money they’d come to count on.
To be honest, there are so many things at play I hadn’t given much thought to that part of it until I received an email from Bill Clark, a semi-retired certified management consultant who has done pro bono work for non-profits over the past few years.
It coincided, almost to the minute Monday with the announcement Edmonton Oilers Darnell Nurse had made a small donation to go with giving visibility to the situation facing the Edmonton Food Bank.
“The shutdown of major sporting events has had a collateral impact that most of us will have missed,” wrote Clark. “Many worthy charities rely on the generosity of sports teams and their associated charitable foundations. As an example, the Oilers Community Foundation has provided numerous grants to worthy organizations and supports a number of ongoing legacy projects.
“I’ve seen how hard they work to meet unending need. Those organizations need help now more than ever. There’s a lot of suffering going on but the ones suffering the most are the ones on the receiving end of the services provided by these charities.”
Think about it. The Oilers, who had been one of the first teams in the NHL and Canada to step up and look after their part-time arena staff, look like they’re going to lose eight home games of regular-season revenue and a possible pile of playoff money. They just laid off 139 staff members, so they’re not likely to make up the missing dollars for charity.
Who is going to step up to replace that money?
It might have to be the players.
Nurse made a $5,000 donation to the Feed Your Friends campaign for The Food Bank in conjunction with 104.9 Virgin Radio drive to help Edmontonians with some much needed food during the pandemic.
Many players contribute to charities and do it quietly because of the ‘Why not us?’ syndrome that makes more enemies than friends. Many make contributions of their (until now) more valuable time by becoming involved as honorary chairmen of various entities. The all-time team for that was Glen Sather’s five-time Stanley Cup champion Oilers.
Edmonton Eskimos players have a long and proud tradition of being champions in the community. But don’t be looking to CFL players to make any donations. They’re not making the big bucks and might not see a paycheque for a long while.
The other day, I made a call to the NHLPA and discovered many players have been making visible donations with the hope of encouraging fans to do the same.
Dallas Stars’ John Klingberg and Florida Panthers forward Jonathan Huberdeau were the first players to announce donations to the Centre for Disaster Philanthropy’s COVID-19 Response Fund. Panthers’ Mike Hoffman, St. Louis Blues’ David Perron, Pittsburgh Penguins’ Dominik Simon, Detroit Red Wings’ Filip Hronek, Vegas Golden Knights Marc-Andre Fleury and Max Pacioretty and Edmonton Oilers’ William Lagesson were also early to donate.
Jonathan Toews of the Blackhawks committed $100,000 to the Chicago COVID-19 Response Fund. Canadiens’ Carey Price donated $50,000 to an emergency fund to help children across the country.
In New York, Henrik Lundqvist donated $100,000 to the Food Bank to help in coronavirus relief. In Minnesota, Matt Dumba made a donation to support families impaired during the pandemic with immediate and basic needs.
Now, you may look at that list and, other than the donation by Nurse through the radio station and Lagesson, wonder where the heck all the Oilers are here?
Well, other than raising awareness, that’s the purpose of this piece.
The Oilers, as a team of players, your correspondent has learned, are currently combining to contribute together to make a sizeable donation to local charities in the response and relief effort.
Expect an announcement soon.
City of Champions.
On Twitter: @ByTerryJones
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