Category Archives: Ownership

Just because you’re paranoid…

The Jackets held a town hall meeting last night to make their case for public money for the arena to invited bloggers and others. I wasn’t invited. Which is fine. Sitting at Nationwide Arena getting the full Rod Bryden treatment wouldn’t be my ideal Tuesday night. And I don’t even know if anyone in the CBJ front office is aware of this little blog. But given recent events, I can’t help but wonder if my mild criticism of the sin tax plan (see below) ruled me out? For what it’s worth, Dispatches from Columbus was not invited either, and that blog has also expressed skepticism about the Jackets’ message.

Coverage I’ve seen so far from people who were there:

No disrespect intended to those who were invited, or those who support the idea of the county buying the arena. Reasonable people can disagree on public funding, and bloggers are free to take whatever positions they want on their blogs. Supporting the public plan does not mean they are patsies of the Jackets’ ownership. And I do read and enjoy all of the blogs listed above. But given the team’s propensity over its history to try and control the public message, I can’t help but wonder if they chose to invite people who had already written positively about the plan, or otherwise indicated they would probably be supportive.

Plan B

No big shock here: the sin tax for Nationwide Arena plan is likely dead in the water, and now the politicians and the Jackets owners are looking for a “Plan B.”

I did re-read High Stakes this weekend, as I said I would. It didn’t really give a lot of new insight into this situation, except maybe raising the question that the Dispatch is exploring today — was Lamar Hunt right all along?

In happier news, the Hockey News draft preview is out. Picked it up last night at the Kroger at Chambers and Northwest. Looks like Ryan Ellis might be right in the Jackets’ sweet spot…some might be a little reluctant to pick another undersized defenseman after watching the continuing process of Kris Russell becoming an NHL player, but this kid did look quite good for Windsor in the Memorial Cup.

I’m also told there are some hockey games still being played somewhere. Anyone else hear this crazy rumor?

More on the Arena plan

Longer article in the Dispatch this morning. This is also the Dispatch Hot Issue today, and votes and comments are, perhaps unsurprisingly, going strongly against the idea of raising “sin taxes” and using the money for the county to buy the arena.

Also of note is the announcement of cost cuts at Worthington Industries, the McConnell family business. It’s not a stretch to assume that economic problems in the main business would make them less tolerant of losses by the hockey team.

As I’ve noted on here before, I am generally no fan of public subsidies for pro sports — the Bengals and Reds fiascoes in Hamilton County were enough. But I admit I’m a little torn on this, just given that I would personally be devastated if the Blue Jackets left town. But really, given the extent we’re seeing all sorts of cuts in state programs, in local services, etc., I can’t really fathom saying we’re going to raise extra revenue, but instead of, say, restoring Help Me Grow Ohio, we’re going to spend it on getting a better lease for an NHL team (Yeah, I know this would be county money instead of state, but ultimately there’s only one taxpayer, so if we’re asking for more from them, it should address the biggest needs first). In good economic times this might make sense, but in good economic times, who knows if this issue would even have arisen?

Obviously, just because the team has said they are losing money does not mean they are inevitably relocating. I listened to Rod Bryden making threats to move the Senators for several years, and ultimately watched the team almost miss making payroll, but they didn’t move, and the situation improved with the new ownership. A lot of people have a vested interest in keeping the Jackets around, not the least of which is Nationwide, who without them as primary tenant, are sitting on a white elephant of an arena, and an entertainment district into which they have invested millions which is now lacking 40+ nights a year of business. And although it is true that in general, pro sports teams don’t bring a lot to a region as a whole economically (because they just reallocate money that would have been spent in the region anyway), the city of Columbus has an obvious interest in keeping the Arena District, which has been one of the bright spots downtown, going well. So there are a lot of people locally who will be looking for a way to ensure the team stays here and gains a solid footing.

As well, in the 90s when we saw franchises move from Winnipeg, Quebec, and Hartford, the economy was stronger and there was a bull market for pro sports, with lots of cities trying to attract teams. Now I would say there are more troubled NHL teams than cities that seem like they would want them. Phoenix is obviously in the deepest straits, the Isles look to be in trouble without a new arena, Atlanta is a mess with ownership issues, Florida has been bad for so long that they’ve effectively killed their fanbase. But as far as likely relocation cities, it’s really Balsillie in Hamilton/Mississauga/Waterloo/Innerkip or the empty new building in KC. Most of the rest of the cities that get tossed about seem to fall more into the “wouldn’t it be cool if X had an NHL team?” category than places with buildings and potential owners lined up and waiting for a team. Which I think is why the NHL has changed their tune on franchise relocation and worked hard to keep Ottawa, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Nashville where they were. Columbus has shown that with a competitive team, this can be a hockey city, and I think the league will try to keep them here unless it becomes completely untenable.

All that said, though, it’s never nice to hear your team being talked about in terms of possible relocation. I do hope they can figure it out, although I just can’t get behind the sin tax proposal right here, right now.

I’m thinking it’s also time to re-read High Stakes this weekend and refresh my memory about the arena politics in Columbus, since I wasn’t living here when all that went on.

Jackets want the county to buy Nationwide Arena

This is the first I’ve heard of this:

The Columbus Blue Jackets are leading discussions about the possible sale of Nationwide Arena to Franklin County, using higher taxes on alcohol and cigarettes to help fund the deal.

Preliminary talks have been held between Blue Jackets and Franklin County officials, state legislators and Nationwide Insurance executives over helping the National Hockey League club solve its economic problems, Columbus Business First has learned. One option under discussion calls for the county to buy the 18,000-seat arena from Nationwide so the team can work toward getting a better lease.

The issue is likely to come to a head in coming weeks as lawmakers decide whether to grant Franklin County the authority to impose or seek voter approval for an increase in alcohol and tobacco excise taxes. Such a provision could be added to the state budget bill that the General Assembly must pass by June 30.

ETA: a bit more from the Dispatch

Off-season hockey books and other Toronto tidbits

I was up in Toronto for a few days earlier this week. Mostly work, but I did fit in an awesome Tragically Hip concert at Massey Hall, some visiting of friends, and of course some shopping. Although Amazon and other on-line sources now make it possible to acquire pretty much any book from any place, I still enjoy going to bookstores in Canada to find new books on hockey that haven’t filtered down here yet. Most new hockey books come out to coincide with the beginning of the season, so this is an off time for them. Although I hadn’t been in Canada since my trip to Calgary last March, so the Fall 2008 titles are still new to me.

There were some newer titles that struck my fancy a little, but they were all still hardcovers in the $30 range, so I decided to wait on these ones until they’re in paperback or remainders. Bruce Dowbiggin’s The Meaning of Puck was the most tempting, as I’ve enjoyed his other books and his journalism in general, but I deferred. I’ll probably pick it up on my next trip up. The Rocket by Benoit Melancon, a meaty looking cultural studies tome about Maurice Richard and his cultural impact in Quebec was similarly tempting, and is on the list for later. Not much else really struck my fancy this time.

The books I did end up buying were older titles. Chris Robinson’s Stole This from a Hockey Card about Doug Harvey caught my eye a couple years ago at Pages Books, but it was at the tail end of the trip when I’d already spent too much, so I didn’t get it. Made sure to pick it up this time. I’m a fan of Bill Gaston’s fiction, so his Midnight Hockey, which was on remainder at Book City, found its way into my ownership. I’d seen Mark Anthony Jarman’s hockey novel Salvage King, Ya! at the Kingston Chapters many eons ago, but I barely read fiction as a grad student, never mind paid $20 for a brand new novel, so I passed it up and it slipped my mind. Found it in a used bookstore this time, and I’m about halfway through reading it — takes some getting into, but I am quite enjoying it.

The Leafs have obviously been out of action even longer than the Jackets, so not a whole lot of buzz around them in Toronto these days. More people wearing Jays gear than I’ve seen in well over a decade, and lots of Toronto FC presence as well. And of course lots of Balsillie/Coyotes talk. Even a friend of mine in Waterloo who detests hockey was talking about that. She opined that since Toronto has the Leafs, the Niagara Peninsula has the Sabres, and “I suppose people in Windsor must like Detroit” that London would be the best home for the erstwhile Coyotes. Okay…

It was also nice that in Canada hockey is on channels that are actually available in hotel rooms, unlike Vs., which I think I’ve found in hotels twice. So I skipped a dinner with colleagues in favor of takeout shawarma and Game Six of Pens-Caps. What a fun series that was to watch, even as someone who is pretty much neutral on those two teams! Sounds like Game Seven was a bit of a dud, but I was en route back to Columbus and missed it. Tried to listen on XM, but they had the Pittsburgh feed, and I loathe Mike Lange with the white hot intensity of 1000 suns, so that was a no-go. Can’t say I have a lot of interest in the teams that are left — I’ll probably cheer for Carolina as the last remaining “non-traditional” team insofar as I cheer for anyone.

On that note of playoff ennui for those of us without a rooting interest left, I’ll leave you with a recommendation to check out this right-on Roy MacGregor column about the ever dragging hockey playoffs.

Goodbye to the ‘Yotes?

I’m hardly an expert on the situation in Phoenix, so I won’t bloviate on it. I will note that I was out there for work last fall (didn’t make it to a Coyotes game, unfortunately) and it was pretty striking in the local papers and news just how hard-hit that area has been by the bursting of the real estate bubble. Home values in some areas that have declined by half. It’s hard to see any franchise not running into trouble, regardless of what other issues they may or may not have. I’m just sad for the fans who it looks like will be losing their team.

Some decent reads on the ‘Yotes difficulties, the Balsillie offer, etc:

I’ll be in Toronto for half of next week, so I’m sure to hear lots more then.

Duvie to be placed on waivers, bought out

I think we all knew this was coming. It’s too bad, because Duvie seemed like a good guy and hard worker. But he just never regained his form after his injury shortened 2006-07 season, and with young guys like Rome, Methot, and Russell challenging for roster spots on D, Westcott became superfluous to the team’s needs. I wish him the best of luck in his hockey career and other future endeavors.

Also in this morning’s Dispatch, Mike Arace raises the spectre of the Jackets moving as a roundabout way to call out J.P. McConnell for not sitting down to an interview with the paper. Stay classy, Columbus.

Finally, on the off topic tip, it’s Comfest weekend in Goodale Park. Which also means it’s the weekend when my hits spike because people are searching for “comfest topless”, of which I am still the fourth result on Google. Stay classy, Columbus.

And here’s a picture of Ron House from Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments performing last night at Comfest. Not topless, though. Sorry.

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