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Bruce Dowbiggin

The Phoney Hype For “Canada’s Team” In The Stanley Cup Final

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If you sometimes feel you’re being talked down to by your betters in mass media, there’s probably a reason. You are. From the forced demographics in films and culture to mandatory vaccines and lockdowns, the population are seen as daycare kiddos joined by a rope who must led in the ways of righteousness. Or, to be precise, leftishness.

Sometimes the massaging is blatant (do Canadian banks really want us to think all their employees are now black?) Sometimes it’s more subtle. Take, for example, the pizza restaurant commercials running incessantly during the NHL playoffs. They take the time to tell you that no Canadian team— repeat after us— has won a Stanley Cup since 1993 (ten points if you guessed Montreal). There are images of screens being crushed, balloons deflating. An unidentified Chris Cuthbert says, “It’s all over folks, the fun has come to an end.”

The dates of recent Final failures roll by showing walls that were punched, plates thrown through TV screen, transistor radios being tossed on the cement. So far accurate. But then Cuthbert pipes up. “Maybe it’s time we try something different?” (In case your hearing is deficient they scroll out “Maybe it’s time we try something different?”)

You’ll never guess their solution. Instead of booing our Canadian rival teams, maybe we should get behind whichever Canadian team makes it this far. “Let’s cheer with the fans we’ve always cheered against.” Pictures show people clinking glasses in camaraderie. (What happened to diversity?) Then the punch line.

“Team Up For The Cup”. This is the sort of pablum notion you get from people who drop in for the Final after spending the winter darning socks or attending NDP rallies. People we know actually believe it’s a government commercial. Even in the age of “Sinbad” Trudeau, this is inauthentic to the nth degree.

It all suggests “You fans are at fault.” A beer-soaked Kumbaya session is all that’s stood between Canada and a Cup since 1993. Of course the focus-group nimrods who think a Carbon Tax will change the weather could not be made to understand that the essence of fandom is 1) Our team wins 2) Your biggest rival loses.  No, with a little Liberal fairy dust we can all join hands behind Edmonton, now in the Final . That’s all it takes. As we say, inauthentic. Like dumping plastic bags for paper bags.

It put us in mind of an exchange we had with the quintessential Chrétien-era Liberal, Sheila Copps, she of the one million Canadian flags without lanyards debacle. In 2007, the Ottawa Senators made it to the Final. Needless to say the home of Canada’s bureaucracy was in heaven. In our 2008 book The Meaning of Puck , we recalled what happened when we suggested in the Calgary Herald that we weren’t going to “Team Up For The Cup”.

Former Liberal MP and Cabinet Minister Sheila Copps

Saying we wouldn’t go all Vimy Ridge for a team with a Trojan ad on their jersey, we asked why we should getting squishy about a team two time zones away. We added some gratuitous shots about Ottawa rolling up the sidewalks by 7 PM and Tulip Festivals. And praised the things we did share. Alberta’s oil money. Honk. Honk.

Before you could say Alfonso Gagliano, Ms. Copps, the pride of Hamilton, fired back in that quaint, understated style she’s known for. Using words like “despot” and a “dictator”, she accused us of using hockey to separate the nation.  Our “diatribe” was “hate-filled” as we mocked “tulips, tourists and the team… Dowbiggin’s message was a lot more dangerous than the separatists”, she railed.

Tulips bloom on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on May 1, 2009., on the first day of the Canadian Tulip Festival which runs from May 1st to the 18th. Ottawa was gifted 100,000 tulip bulbs in 1945 from Princess Juliana of the Netherlands in appreciation for the help Canada gave in liberating the Netherlands during WWII. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

“Gussied up as a sports rant he thinks it’s perfectly okay to trash another part of Canada in the name of hockey.. Sports lynchers with a political agenda commit the worst kind of bigotry. In Western backhand ( note”: we lived our first 45 years in Quebec and Ontario), Dowbigggin excretes the same bile that almost cost our country twice.” Sports lyncher. Wow.

You’re welcome Sheila. Suggesting that “more astute readers may have discerned a touch of sarcasm and mirth in our original piece” we replied that this pro-Canada stand was rich coming from the government whose Sponsorship Scandal tore apart the nation and left their party to trust-fund Justin “the Jester” Trudeau.

“I’m always amused by Quebec parvenus such as Ms. Copps who think a French immersion course and a particularly hot weekend at the Juste Pour Rire festival make them an expert in the culture of La Belle Province… the parlous state of Quebec within Canada speaks to decades of Liberal vigilance on the separatist file.

“In the end it’s hard to tell which is funnier: Ms. Copps’ vitriolic defence of her record as a champion of Confederation or as a sudden covert to the culture of hockey in this country. But then, Ms. Copps, like most Liberals, never were very good at getting a joke.  Maybe because its was about them in the first place.”

Sadly, they don’t make ‘em like Sheila anymore. Now they slap you with a hate crime and take away your financial records. So good luck to Edmonton. We mean you no harm. Your crayon-coloured unis look great. Just don’t come running to the rest of Canada if you sprain your ankle on the Florida Panthers.

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. His new book Deal With It: The Trades That Stunned The NHL And Changed hockey is now available on Amazon. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his previous 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.

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

How Betting Could Save Over-Expanded Leagues With Competition Problems

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It’s not often that we get new traditions every day in the NHL playoffs. We’re used to octopus on the ice. Plastic rats, too. Ron Maclean using obscure Blue Rodeo lyrics to explain the icing rule. But now there is a new tradition, unlike another.

Bitching about betting ads during the broadcasts of games. Get any group of plus-50s fans together to talk about the playoffs and you’re guaranteed to hear a volley of complaints about the incursion of gambling commercials now peppering the HNIC playlist. Or, for that matter, the TBS hockey playlist in the U.S.

The grievances range from the interference in the play (“I just want to watch a game, not a pitch for the over/ under on Stu Skinner goals-against”) to corruption of youth (“We are teaching a generation of young people that gambling is okay”). Some are annoyed by the presence of Connor McDavid who has morphed from a punchline in Wayne Gretzky’s gambling resumé to a serious dude warning kids about responsible gambling.

The reliance on advertising from casinos and gambling sites is a swift jolt for sports broadcasters who clearly see a golden goose and are not going to let it get away. As we’ve said before, we have yet to have a signature funny commercial for gambling that takes it mainstream. Right now, in Canada particularly, the quality of ads is lame.

But. Let’s discuss the “corrupting youth” argument that seems to be the loudest voice from non-gamblers. As we discussed in the Shohei Ohtani case, gambling— in the form of betting, fantasy sports, office pools, pick-a-square etc.— has been a vast underground source of gambling that the abolitionists ignored for decades. Legalizing it has removed much of this action from the grip of organized crime. As Ohtani’s case showed, the sunlight of public betting allows for (mostly) better monitoring.

As well, the leagues don’t share in the betting revenues, removing any question about the integrity off the outcome. They do promote betting sites and casinos where betting takes place. But the earnings from that belongs to others, not the leagues.

Second, the generations of pecksniffs deploring these ads have watched ads for alcohol on sports broadcasts for decades. In case you’ve been on Mars, alcohol is highly addictive and a drain on society’s healthcare resources. Yet none of them made a puritanical peep about protecting youth from ads for beer that financed HNIC for 50 years. Consistency in this griping would be nice.

Third, there is a fundamental misunderstanding about gambling that most of the opponents miss. Yes, the money is staggering. It has brought to pro sports league revenues so they can pay NFL QBs $50 million a year. With the threat of regional cable broadcasting— and its revenues— collapsing in North America, a new source of profits is imperative.

It also favours the house. Winning 57-58 percent of your bets is considered excellent. But here’s something no one talks about. Recreational gambling is an answer to the problems created by bloated leagues of 30-plus teams. The chances of your favourite team winning the Stanley Cup or Super Bowl have shrunk to microscopic in most cases. As we pointed out in our 2021 book Cap In Hand, the pressure of salary caps has led organizations to adopt either a “we’ll go for it” stance for a “tank for a top pick” approach.

What used to be a healthy middle class in leagues— fifteenth place—is now a ghost town as teams either rise our fall accord to their title hopes. Trading deadlines midway through a season allow teams to dump big contracts or gather depth for a playoff run. By the end of the season the standings are a sandwich with no filling.

So how are broadcasters to maintain interest in lame squads losing at a prodigious rate? What do you say to keep fans coming back even when they know the inevitable result? Enter recreational gambling. The NFL has floated its boat on the power of pools, fantasy and illegal wagering for years. It knows its TV numbers would plummet without people tuning in to see how their fantasy teams, props bets and parlays are doing.

Allegiances to your bets are the coming thing in sports viewership. Not for nothing does ESPN— an NFL, NBA and NHL rights holder— feature a “Bad Beats” section on its sports desk coverage every night. It highlights the outcomes where winning and losing defies imagination. Canadian networks are still treating their betting tips as stand-alone segments, not incorporating a betting win/ loss segment. But with the Blue Jays and Raptors floundering they’ll need alternatives to recognizing the inevitable. Enter betting.

As well, the playoffs—usually a windfall for teams/ leagues—leave considerable inventory unrealized. Quick series make for diminished handles and lost ticket sales. For instance, in this year’s NHL playoffs, the losing team in the 14 series so far has averaged just 1.78 wins per series. The NBA is far worse. Losing teams in this year’s postseason are averaging just 1.2 wins per series.

It’s anticlimactic and predictable and expensive for leagues. So if you’re paying the kind of money the stars now command you have to get the secondary sources of revenue cranked up. That spells betting. Like it or not.

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. His new book Deal With It: The Trades That Stunned The NHL And Changed hockey is now available on Amazon. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his previous 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

The Debt Pipeline: Canada Is Drowning In Debt

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“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked.

“Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly.”— The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway, 1926

For those outside Calgary, the rupture of the major water-carrying pipe is a local annoyance, divorced from their lives. The fact that it now appears it will take 3-5 weeks to restore normal water delivery in the city— original estimates from the mayor said 3-5 days— is tough luck for inhabitants of Canada’s energy city.

Even that estimate is being treated skeptically by a public who were manipulated and abused by the political structure during the recent Covid years. Testing shows that this same pipe— it’s large enough to drive a car through— has five more “hot spots” that could lead to further trouble. In short, repairing and maintaining the infrastructure in Calgary is going to be a huge investment. Married to the city’s debt crisis, a new transit line and the need for other infrastructure projects it’s daunting.

But it’s not a localized problem. Toronto’s new crosstown subway project is years over budget even as the city punts on repairing / replacing its vital Gardiner Expressway. Montreal’s bridges are a construction meltdown. Vancouver, Edmonton, Halifax— name the city. They’re all faced with crushing repairs while looking down the barrel of the debt gun.

How bad is the debt bomb? The voice on the other end of the line was grave. This retired financial executive says Canada is effectively bankrupt. He’s seen this coming after his almost 50 years in the Canadian industry. A decade of profligate government spending, Canada’s massive debts and electing activist politicians have brought Canada to a nasty place.

The weak spot in Canada’s wall is government debt, he says, and when the inflection point arrives it will happen in a hurry. As Mike Campbell said in The Sun Also Rises about what brought on his bankruptcy,  “Friends. I had a lot of friends. False friends. Then I had creditors, too. Probably had more creditors than anybody in England.”

Canada has friends. Allegedly. Successive Liberal governments have allowed “friendly” China to acquire Canadian debt during a period of accelerated buying in the past decade. Meanwhile, China still owes Canada $371 million in loans it incurred decades ago, and it is not expected to repay them in full until 2045.

But recently it’s been revealed that “friendly” China has also been actively interfering in Canada’s elections. It placed spies in Canada’s top-secret biolabs in Winnipeg. It is buying up farmland in PEI and other Canadian provinces.

That has left Canada’s PM, the one who said he admired China’s ability to get things done outside democracy, stammering and obfuscating. He knows that in his current predicament he can’t afford to rile the Chinese, who blithely let Canadians die of Covid-19, a virus they spread to the world.

Already, Canada pays C$46 B a year to service its debt, more than Ottawa expects to spend on childcare benefits ($31.2 billion) and almost as much as the cost of the Canada Health Transfer ($49.4 billion). Hard to believe Canada’s GDP per capita was actually higher than the US. Now, there is a $30.5k USD gap.

Should China decide to push the go button and pull back its bond paper in Canada, the result, says this executive, will be seismic. To rescue a credit-choked economy interest rates could jump back as high as the 18 percent rates of the 1980s. To say nothing of boosting personal tax rates. In case you’re part of the Denial Squad, here’s the take governments exact at the moment. Think they can take more?

NL – 54.8%

NS – 54%

ON – 53.53%

BC – 53.50%

QC – 53.31%

NB – 52.50%

PEI- 51.37%

MB – 50.4%

AB – 48%

YT – 48%

SK – 47.5%

NT – 47.05%

Not good. Canadians who think the warning signs will give them time to adjust are badly mistaken. Paraphrasing the words of Mike Campbell, the long debt descent will happen “suddenly”. Within 48 hours of China (or any other Canadian bondholder) employing the poison pill much of Canadians’ savings will be wiped out. The real estate market— which is the default savings account for millions— will implode.

You won’t hear any this from finance minister Chrystia Freeland who claims her debt-financed spending (based on international comparisons) shows Canada with the lowest level of debt in the G7. But the Fraser Institute points out, “By using net debt as a share of the economy (GDP), Canada ranks 11th lowest of 29 countries and lowest amongst the G7. By using gross debt as a share of the economy, Canada falls to 25th of 29 countries and 4th in the G7”.

If you don’t like statistics you can always just pop down to the grocery store to check out how $4.99 blueberries cost $7.99 now. The debt crisis should lead the newscasts each night. It will when reality strikes suddenly. But for now, Trudeau’s purchased media are more interested in Pierre Poilievre fear stories and TikTok videos of cats.

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. His new book Deal With It: The Trades That Stunned The NHL And Changed hockey is now available on Amazon. Inexact Science: The Six Most Compelling Draft Years In NHL History, his previous 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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