Volume 92, Issue 1
Friday, May 15, 1998
Hockey is an integral part of Canada, 'nuff said.
Recent weeks have brought a lot of talk about the fate of Canadian hockey and a debate has arisen about whether or not to give our professional teams special tax breaks and incentives to allow them to remain prosperous, competitive and most importantly, IN CANADA.
Many people argue that Canadian tax payers shouldn't be responsible for helping the rich get richer and these teams don't need any further means of making more money, which is true. However, this is more than just dollars and cents. We are talking about a sport and a business that is an integral part of the economies in six Canadian cities and a part of Canada's culture as a whole.
Looking at the surface, National Hockey League teams in Canada employ approximately 300 employees each, from concession workers to cleaning staff to ticket agents. This number increases exponentially when viewing the larger picture.
For instance, the bar or restaurant owner along the same street as the hockey arena is generally only busy on nights of hockey games. These restaurants and bars employ another thirty or forty people each and the cycle begins. These people would then have money to spend at other businesses in that city, giving these businesses the opportunities they would not have had if it were not for the hockey team.
If you think this is being stretched a little, guess again. People working in the restaurant business get together for a beer at a nearby establishment after work. As well, in between shifts, say between lunch and dinner, the most popular place to go is the mall to spend some of that cash that was just earned.
The issue is, however, still bigger than just getting work for a few people. These hockey teams do much more than just make money for a lot of people, including themselves. They entertain and instill city pride, even national pride. Jean Chrétien is rumoured to be making a wager with some politicians in Washington on the outcome of the Ottawa-Washington series (not the best wager but his heart is in the right place).
Did anyone see the highlights from Prague, Czech Republic when their gold medal hockey team returned? There were more people celebrating than when the Berlin Wall came down. This type of pride can't have a price tag put on it and Canadians should try to do everything within their power to maintain it.
If anyone was in Toronto when the Leafs were making their playoff run of 1992 or when the Blue Jays won the World Series they would have seen the streets jammed with people celebrating enjoying the fact their teams were winning. These feelings cannot be replaced when the teams can no longer survive in their city because of the strong American dollar.
Hockey and professional sports also bring notoriety to their cities. It is integral in the making of a world class city. These cities need pro sports as much as they need to have musicals, museums and the arts that supposedly make up culture. These activities have long had tax breaks and government funding to keep them going, so why not hockey?
Notoriety brings tourism which, getting back to fiscal reasoning, brings in bucks. Tourists may not come just for the hockey but it definitely helps that there is something to do within these six cities that you can't do in any other Canadian city. Just ask the people of Winnipeg and Quebec City. They lost their pro teams and with them, a part of their cities.
If something is not done soon, the question of what hockey had meant to the cities of Calgary, Edmonton and Ottawa will be asked and the answers will not be good for anyone, not even the tax payers.
Should Canadian hockey teams be given tax breaks to remain
competitive against subsidized American clubs?
Based on a systematic
survey of 50 Western
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Copyright © The Gazette 1998