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Bruce Dowbiggin

So You Say There’s A Chance? Watering Down The Product

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Legendary Boston Bruins coach/ GM Harry Sinden put his finger on the dilemma of NHL competitive balance when we interviewed him for our book Money Players. The problem with teams in the league, said Sinden, Is that there were (then) 20 teams who all think they are going to  win the Stanley Cup and they all going to share it. But only one team is going to win it. The rest are chasing a rainbow.”

And that trenchant observation was before the expansion Vegas Golden Knights won a Cup within five years while the third-year Seattle Kraken made a run in those same 2023 playoffs. There are currently 32 teams in the league, each chasing Sinden’s rainbow of a Stanley Cup. That means 31 cranky fan bases every year. And 31 management teams trying to avoid getting fired.

Maybe we’ve reached peak franchise level? Uh, no. If you believe the innuendo coming from commissioner Gary Bettman there is a steady appetite for getting a piece of the NHL operation. “The best answer I can give you is that we have continuous expressions of interest from places like Houston, Atlanta, Quebec City, Salt Lake City, but expansion isn’t on the agenda.” In the next breath Bettman was predicting that any new teams will cost “A lot, a lot.”

So you say there’s a chance. The mention of twice-failed Atlanta (see; Flames, Thrashers) getting a third try drew guffaws from those who’d seen the failures of the past in Dixie. But deputy NHL commissioner Bill Daly says, “I think some of the challenges that we’ve seen in the past in Atlanta can be overcome” Other scoffed at the idea of small-market Quebec City cutting into Montreal’s provincial monopoly.

Daly echoed Bettman’s caution about a sudden expansion but added, ”Having said that, particularly with the success of the Vegas and Seattle expansions, there are more people who want to own professional hockey teams.” Translation: If the NHL can get a billion for a new team, the clock might start ticking sooner. After all, small-market Ottawa just went for $950 M.

Houston is planning a renovation of the Toyota Center in the hopes of adding a second Texas franchise. If anyone can pat a billion it’s America’s energy capital. Why are people ponying up for the NHL and its mediocre media footprint? One very good reason— one for which Bettman fought long and hard— is payroll control. The league’s punitive salary cap forces players to guarantee a profit to owners before they get their full salary. As a result a mega star in the MLB, NBA and NFL can fetch over $40 M a year. In the NHL Connor McDavid tops salaries at just $13.25 M.

It’s not just the expansion-obsessed NHL talking more teams. MLB is looking to add franchises. This even as it decides about moving the neglected Oakland A’s to Las Vegas.  As a result Tom Brady’s recent appearance wearing an Expos jersey—he was drafted by Montreal in 1995 before choosing football— at an MLB store drew cautious interest in Montreal So did his passing comment about perhaps taking an ownership position in any future Montreal franchise.

Now, abandoned Montreal is once more getting palpitations over rumours that the league wants to return to the city that lost its Expos in 2005. Recent reports indicate that while MLB might prefer Salt Lake City and Nashville it also feels it must right the wrong left when the Expos moved to Washington DC 19 years ago.

The city needs a new ballpark to replace disastrous Olympic Stadium. They’ll also need more than Brady to fund the franchise fee and operating costs. And Quebec corporate support— always transitory in the Expos years— will need to be strong. But two more MLB franchises within five years is a lock.

While the NBA is mum on going past 30 teams it has not shut the door on expansion after seeing the NHL cashing in. Neither has the cash-generating monster known as the NFL where teams currently sell for over six billion US. The NFL is eyeing Europe for its next moves.

The question that has to be asked in this reported rush to expand is the one Harry Sinden put to us years ago, WTF, quality of competition? The more teams in a league the lower the chances of even getting to a semifinal series let alone a championship. Fans in cities starved for a championship— the NFL’s Detroit Lions or Cleveland Browns are entering their seventh decade without a title or the Toronto Maple Leafs title-less since 1967— know how corrosive it can be.

Getting to 34, 36, maybe 40 teams makes a short-term score for owners but it could leave leagues with an entire strata of loser teams that no one—least of all networks, carriers and advertisters—wants to see. Generations of fans will be like Canuck supporters, going their entire lives without a championship.

In addition, as we’ve argued in our book Cap In Hand: How Salary Caps Are Killing Pro Sports and How The Free Market Can Save Them, watering down the product with a lot of teams no one wants to watch nationally or globally seems counter productive. The move away from quality toward quantity serves only the gambling industry.

But since when has Gary Bettman cared about quality of the product? So long as he gets to say, “We have a trade to announce” at the Draft, he’s a happy guy.

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Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster  A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his new book with his son Evan, was voted the seventh-best professional hockey book of all time by bookauthority.org . His 2004 book Money Players was voted sixth best on the same list, and is available via http://brucedowbigginbooks.ca/book-personalaccount.aspx

BRUCE DOWBIGGIN Award-winning Author and Broadcaster Bruce Dowbiggin's career is unmatched in Canada for its diversity and breadth of experience . He is currently the editor and publisher of Not The Public Broadcaster website and is also a contributor to SiriusXM Canada Talks. His new book Cap In Hand was released in the fall of 2018. Bruce's career has included successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster for his work with CBC-TV, Mr. Dowbiggin is also the best-selling author of "Money Players" (finalist for the 2004 National Business Book Award) and two new books-- Ice Storm: The Rise and Fall of the Greatest Vancouver Canucks Team Ever for Greystone Press and Grant Fuhr: Portrait of a Champion for Random House. His ground-breaking investigations into the life and times of Alan Eagleson led to his selection as the winner of the Gemini for Canada's top sportscaster in 1993 and again in 1996. This work earned him the reputation as one of Canada's top investigative journalists in any field. He was a featured columnist for the Calgary Herald (1998-2009) and the Globe & Mail (2009-2013) where his incisive style and wit on sports media and business won him many readers.

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Bruce Dowbiggin

Trudeau’s C-63: The Criminalization Of “Harm”

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Our Boomer generation arrived just a little late for the onslaught of Daycare Reality. In the days when we walked to school uphill both ways, the oppressive regime of mothers being our primary caregivers was the norm. For better or worse, she provided the Rules of Behaviour. In a housecoat. With a flyswatter and a jar of cookies.

Then daycare became the place where society civilized its children while Mommy and Daddy underwent DEI programming at work. None of that messy variation from home-to-home on matters of civility, discipline or faith. With the state involved it was one-stop shopping.

“Billy. We don’t use violence to solve bullying.” “Jane, we must respect others’ workspace” and that classic, “Ms. Miller will conduct a struggle session to resolve this squabble.” Okay, “struggle sessions” didn’t have a name yet. But their insertion of an authority figure into every squabble was very real.

If not, pharmaceuticals were employed.

Fast forward a generation, and the products of early daycare were spilling out into society. Most were polite, reserved and, most important, deferential to authority. Sure, some dabbled in rebellion, but most accepted the essential tenant of the state being central to calming their fears of the boogey man. (That’s how safe spaces were invented.)

One of their fears, they were told, was Hate Speech. What began as an earnest attempt to silence Ernst Zundel’s #Nazi ravings has morphed into a Department of Daycare deciding whose speech is hurtful and whose is transcendent Happy Ways positivism.

Speaking of Happy Ways positivism, Svengali Justin the Munificent has introduced legislation C-63— the risibly named Harms Bill— creating an innocent little department of his government to regulate speech. The idea being that gender and race post grads will arbitrate whether your online speech is icky, especially to people in elected office (Calgary has already introduced a law banning the razzing of mayors who declare a climate emergency on their first day in office.) It will also guess what your future harms might be and award you an ankle bracelet.

Its reach has left foreigners gobsmacked. What was hunting porn and pedos is now hunting dissidents. This “expert” on turning society into a thought experiment was very chuffed about the possibilities of construing rude as criminal. (And bloating the bureaucracy even more) Now, smiling Princess Vapid is achieving ecstasy, because unelected bureaucrats will decide what is naughty speech and what is not.

You can’t blame Justin for pushing ever further into the suppression of speech. Using the slobbering servitude of the NDP as a crutch, he has already bribed most of the failing media companies in the country into toeing the line on policies— while they went light on stuff like the RCMP giving him a hall pass on the SNC Lavalin shenanigans. In lockstep with CBC, they get the money, his mistakes go in the round file.

Never mind that the population is fleeing media fossils like CBC or the Toronto Star for non-Canadian content that they (gasp) enjoy. In the interest of having dedicated government wind therapists, tax money will go to specials on imminent climate-change destruction, Islamaphobia or “Pierre Poilievere Is Donald Trump” exposés.

There is no corner of Canadian society too small for the Church Ladies to ignore. For instance, the new legalized sports gambling industry. To paraphrase the old beer ad, “Those who hate it, hate it a lot”. Here CBC has the vapours over the world’s second-oldest industry. Commercial insertions, a flurry of statistics and some dubious spokespeople are among the complaints. So is the retrograde effect of gambling addiction, which was always beneath the surface when sports betting was illegal or offshore.

Another thing irritating the betting haters has been the presence of famous athletes like Wayne Gretzky, Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid (among others) in advertisements pitching the joys of parlays, teasers and side bets. The thinking goes that this star worship is ruining the youth of the nation, even though betting is illegal till 18 years old. While tempting adults who might otherwise be wasting disposable income on political donations.

With Ontario’s legalized betting market among the most competitive in the world— and Alberta making noise in this week’s budget about its about-to-open market— the guardians of decency have weighed in with something called “Registrar’s Standards for Internet Gaming”. It bans the use of sports stars in advertising for a legalized product. As Steve McAllister of Gaming News Canada reports, “there’ll be no more Gretz, no more Gronk, no more Jamie Foxx/Kevin Hart/Vince Vaughn/Vanessa Hudgens, no more Auston Matthews, and no more Mitch Marner/Leon Draisaitl/Chris Pronger on the Canadian airwaves, billboards, subways and/or social media platforms.”

Sports Interaction, the most prominent betting site on Hockey Night in Canada, deep-sixed their Marner/Draisaitl/Pronger ads on last Saturday’s HNIC game, replacing them with the “Americans-don’t-know-diddly-about-hockey spots”.

That should take care of that! Except that Americans haven’t applied a fatwa on sports stars shilling for casino gambling. So Canadians who want their guilty pleasure of hero worship will still be able to see Gretzky, Gronk and Jerry Rice on their cross-border U.S. channels. Or on websites that cross the border like Venezuelans sneaking into America. Unless the dutiful CRTC tries to substitute Canadian advertising standards on those broadcasts where Gretz has a pulpit. But let’s not give them new ideas for mischief.

None of this would be happening now if Canadian governments hadn’t spent the past decade forgoing wagering revenues that went offshore or into the black market. But it’s such a cash cow the industry can now run competitive sites, distribute money to Gambling addiction sites and still have lots left to give government for their hobby-horse progressive causes.

Which are now being ladled out to gullible students by activist educators or poured into the foreign adventures of people like Agriculture minister Lawrence “I’ll Order Lobster” McAulay. And don’t we all feel better about that? We know you do.

“Johnny? Stop looking out the window and start saluting Mr. Trudeau’s picture!”

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster  A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his new book with his son Evan, was voted the seventh-best professional hockey book of all time by bookauthority.org . His 2004 book Money Players was voted sixth best on the same list, and is available via brucedowbigginbooks.ca.

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Bruce Dowbiggin

From The Border To Kevin O’Leary, Canada Is Freaking Out Americans

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Tequesta, Fla.: Those Canadians who spend time in DeSantisLand  know that our American hosts are blissfully unaware of what happens in Canada. Outside blaming the True North for brisk weather like this week’s near-freezing temps in the South.

Then, out of nowhere, Canada and Canadians are suddenly blasting down the pike like an Alberta Clipper. Example: While everyone is talking the bum rush at the southern U.S. border, former GOP presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy was frothing about the steady tide of illegals crossing southward from Canada into the U.S.

He told X ,“The Northern Border is the next frontier for illegals. Career politicians including Republicans derided me for saying it last year. Now we’re starting to see the consequences.” One of the consequences is the PM not talking about our leaky border. But since the Liberals removed visa requirements for Mexicans the flood gates have opened. Canada’s fastest growing industry is human smuggling.

Vermont residents are very engaged with Canada’s dirty little secret. Swanton, Vt. resident Chris Feeley told reporters that “he has been hunting in the area since he was a teen and rarely ran into anyone. Now he sees illegals frequently. ‘The border patrol actually told us, ‘You guys might want to put a pistol in your backpack’ because nine out of 10 of them are just here for a better life, but there’s that one guy that’s got a rap sheet,” he said.

Will Trump build a northern wall as well as a southern barrier? Inquiring minds in Canada want to know. Then came the bimbo eruption from New York’s governor Kathy Hochul. Hochul’s state has the highest percentage of Jews in America (seven percent). One and a half to two million Jews live in the New York City area alone. She has a vested interest in their issues.

So when the heinous Oct. 7 attacks murdered hundreds of innocent Israelis in their homes and communities Hochul (whose ancestry is Irish-American) sought to show her solidarity with her constituents. “If Canada someday ever attacked Buffalo, I’m sorry, my friends, there would be no Canada the next day,” Hochul said at an event for the United Jewish Appeal-Federation of New York.

“That is a natural reaction. You have a right to defend yourself and to make sure that it never happens again. And that is Israel’s right.” Hey, she likes us enough to massacre us in retaliation. Now that’s a caring neighbour. Not surprisingly, when Canada’s media grandees heard the news they plotzed. And Hochul scrambled to clarify her remarks. But for a few days, Canada was a something. Americas would obliterate us for destroying Buffalo. The mind boggles.

Next, the liberals in overheated #TDS legacy media had one of their periodic fits over former president #OrangeManBad . They were left aghast that another Donald Trump presidency might decline to protect NATO partners from the boogey man. Trump even suggested he’d give Putin the A-OK to do his worst on Luxembourg or Montenegro. Shocked and appalled, they declared the end of NATO and McDonald’s McRib sandwich.

What the Jake Tapper Brigade neglected to mention in all this fainting and pearl clutching was that this would happen ONLY IF rogue nations refused to pay their obligations under the NATO charter. (Why ruin a good hysteria over running the full quote? See: Charlottesville, Jan. 6, drinking bleach.)

Now, which American neighbour to the North of Biden’s Bedroom is delinquent in its obligations to NATO? Might it be Trudeaupia where it’s more important than agriculture minister Lawrence McAuley be seen casually gorging on lobster in Asia than paying up for deterrents against the Chinese?

So to all his other self-inflicted miseries Prince Justin of Rideau Cottage was confronted with the pitiful funding of Canada’s military (his government just cut military spending by a billion) and its reliance on the support of strangers when it comes to protecting the Arctic, among other tracts of lands. Trudeau has lobbied NATO to include other spending under its requirements. But so far, NATO is not accepting maple syrup, Melanie Joly desk calendars and Bollywood costumes as applicable contributions to defence spending.

According to reports reaching us in the Land of Farenheit, Trudeau responded to all this scrutiny by flying west in a carbon-belching jet to promote climate something-something. But how would an incoming Trump administration deal with Trudeau (and his paid media) who has made POTUS 45 a convenient whipping boy? Has Canada’s PM said too much already? Might Trump tighten the pressure on paying up— just in spite? Trump? Spiteful? Never!

Next on the screens of Americans was the ubiquitous Mr. Wonderful, Kevin O’Leary, Canada’s gift to Shark Tank/ Dragons Den. The recent civil trial of Trump in NYC has vexed him. So everywhere one looks O’Leary is schooling dim liberal hosts on CNN about the idiocy of the decision to fine Trump $354M for cheating no one out of nothing.

“It’s appalling. It’s unjust. I would go as far to say it’s un-American.” Here he is with some place setting named Laura Coates explaining how you do real estate in NYC. “That fact that he was found guilty, you might as well find guilty every real estate developer on Earth,” O’Leary says. “I don’t understand where someone got hurt … What developer doesn’t ask for the highest-price value for any building they built?… If this judgment sticks, every developer must be jailed. They must be found guilty. They must be put out of business. You can’t do this to one but not another. It’s not about Trump.”

O’Leary followed up by saying he wouldn’t be doing business in NYC until the decision was reversed. Others, including Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams followed suit, “100% of people who don’t understand banking, business, negotiating, or the world in general are sure Trump committed fraud. 100% of people who understand banking, business, negotiating, and the world in general saw ‘business as usual’ and no fraud.” Like O’Leary, Adams vowed not to visit nor do business in New York State, setting off an X wave of hysteria among former CDN sports writers and liberal arts graduates.

But Mr. Wonderful discouraging business is different. Hearing O’Leary’s warning to businesses to steer clear of NYC, Governor Hochul sought to reassure real-estate developers that the government will not go after them like they have gone after Donald Trump. Prompting Texas senator Ted Cruz to observe, “In other words, if you don’t make Democrats angry, you won’t get sued. But if you do, you’ll get the Donald Trump treatment.”

It’s almost too much Canada in the news. Luckily, Trudeaupia will slip beneath the waves of American attention again shortly, ignored and dismissed. To think we were that close.

Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy is the editor of Not The Public Broadcaster  A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he’s a regular contributor to Sirius XM Canada Talks Ch. 167. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his new book with his son Evan, was voted the seventh-best professional hockey book of all time by bookauthority.org . His 2004 book Money Players was voted sixth best on the same list, and is available via brucedowbigginbooks.ca.

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