Hockey season ends in Canada

on April 2016 | in Sports | by Dario Passarelli | @PapaDart | with No Comments

The NHL season winds down this weekend and for only the second time in history, not a single Canadian team is in the playoffs. I mean we knew the Toronto Maple Leafs weren’t going anywhere, but Montreal? Vancouver? Et tu Edmonton? You had four, count’em, four number one picks including Connor McDavid and you are battling for last place yet again? That’s right Oilers, you should feel bad!

The questions I asked myself therefore were; had this ever happened before and who was the biggest loser of the bunch? My crack research team (don’t worry boss, my kids work cheap) unearthed the fact that the only other time this happened was way back in 1970, when there were only 12 teams in the league. Montreal and Toronto finished 5th and 6th in the East respectively and missed the playoffs even though they had more points than the West’s 2nd place Pittsburgh Penguins. The NHL didn’t have the fairest system back then, but cut them some slack as it was 1970. I mean, even I wasn’t born then. Ok, Ok, Ok, I was born, but I was only a few months old at the time and don’t remember much other than crying about it a lot. Or maybe I was upset because I’d just soiled my diapers. But I digress.

This may seem like just a sports story, but it really is more serious than that. It’s not on the level of ‘national emergency’ – we don’t need a referendum or a hockey summit. What I mean is that there is significant economic fallout from this that will affect corporations, businesses and even the common person. Heck, even our very own Prime Minister recently got teased during his visit to the White House.

So what started out as a light and hopefully funny take on which Canadian team was the biggest loser, quickly turned sour when I realized that the biggest loser was going to be all of us.

We can start with Rogers who bought the Canadian rights to all NHL games on all of its platforms in all languages from 2014 – 2026. Rogers paid $5.232B for the 12 year deal. You read that right… that’s “B” as in BILLION. I am not criticizing the deal, as no one, not even the mighty Rogers could have foreseen this happening. With no Canadian teams to cheer or jeer, (and remember, people watch games to see teams lose almost as much as to see them win) Rogers will not meet its ratings targets. They will therefore need to “pay back” advertisers by giving them ad time for free. That ad time is now being requested during Toronto Blue Jays games instead. The trickle down affect has already started. Days ago, Gord Cutler, Senior Vice-President at Sportsnet was fired and that was after several staffers were laid off. The fear after this all-American playoff run is that it won’t end there. Let’s hope prices for wireless and TV plans don’t go up to compensate.

Most people don’t care about a giant corporation like Rogers, thinking they make enough money as is and they will survive, but this affects more than them. When sports teams do well, people socialize more. Businesses will suffer in those cities that don’t have playoff teams. Restaurants and bars that have packed houses every time the home team plays won’t be as packed. Merchandisers with new team jerseys, shirts and hats won’t be selling as much either. If you ever wondered why city officials pay for stadiums with tax payers money it is because they know that sports contribute a lot of money to the local economy.

Finally, think of the unsung heroes who work in arenas by sweeping the aisles, bringing popcorn to our seats or providing those in-game activities. They are the ones that make every sporting event special. Most of them work for minimum wage and count on those playoff games to get by. This affects them more than anyone else.

What I thought was going to be some sort of Canadian hockey punchline turned out to just be a punch that hurt. Trust me, this isn’t an economic crisis that will collapse the markets. It will just make some of us a tad tighter with our pocketbook. Hockey is tightly woven through the fibre of this country and I just hope it is at least another 46 years before this happens again.

If for some reason Canada does poorly at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, get ready for Armageddon.

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