Rae Ban

Hence, the Tamil protests in Toronto, I guess. (CBC)

Oh Good, More Terrorism

You've probably already heard this but an elderly lunatic murdered a guard at a Holocaust museum in Washington this afternoon. The killer is believed to be a white-supremacist holocaust denier (update: and former Mensa member!) who once went to jail for attempting to kidnap members of the U.S. federal reserve.

Once again, unhappy individual + mental illness + racism, religion, guns and America = people get killed.

More here at the Washington Post. You might have to set up an account to read this, so if that sounds like a pain in the ass just go to the Guardian, here.

More On The Phoenix Situation

Further to Rosie's fine post, here's an article on the diastrous state of the NHL's TV exposure in the U.S. The WHOLE IDEA of having hockey teams in stupid places like Phoenix is to make the NHL appealling to networks so the league can land big-dollar TV contracts.

IF that happens, then Bettman's scheme for massive U.S. expansion makes sense.

Well, after reading this blog post in the Columbus Dispatch, it sure doesn't sound like Bettman's plan is working. The relevent part of the post starts halfway down, at "NBC is putting the kibosh ...".

I think it's worth a read if you're interested in the business of pro hockey.

What Stanely Cup Final?

In a book I’m reading (again) on the business history of the NFL, the league’s commissioner, Pete Rozelle, said that if his teams or his league was being talked about on the business pages of the newspaper rather than the sports pages, his league was in a lot of trouble. On the surface, the NHL is going to be in a lot of trouble as a fine Stanley Cup final series (Globe and Mail) is being overshadowed by a court case in that hotbed of hockey, Phoenix (Toronto Star). But the further you go into this issue, the worse it gets for everybody involved.

First of all, we have to understand that what’s happening with the NHL is the result not of capitalism, but a financial, oligarchic, cartel. Anybody with a lick of business sense – at least those who weren’t writing off the team’s losses as a tax dodge – would understand that it’s easier to make money in a hockey market than it is in a non-hockey market.

Now, I’m no lawyer, and I don’t pretend to understand all the ins and outs of the legal issues involving the sale of the ex-Jets to the Blackberry Man. But there seems to be two contradictory trains of thought when capitalism meets a business oligarchy – as a capitalist, the owner of the team can do whatever the hell he wants with his own property, while the oligarchy has the right to set the rules and force the capitalist to play by their own rules.

The judge has brought in what is the real reason why the NHL doesn’t want to move the team – they want the league to expand. God knows why, from a hockey aesthetic sense – 30 teams are too many, and most non-playoff hockey games are filled with little more than highly-paid shinny. Even with the collapse of the Iron Curtain, and players from the Czech Republic, Russia, and Sweden coming to North America, there aren’t enough good players to fill the current rosters, and every team has five or six palookas who would be in the Wild Goose Hockey League if it wasn’t for the fact that Gary Bettman thinks the league should be expanding all the time.

So, the judge has asked the league to put a price tag on Hamilton’s territorial rights. My bet is that the NHL will put up a massive dollar figure to try to force Basillie out of the game – a massive poker bluff. And if the judge says, that’s too high, what then? (Steve Simmons, Toronto Sun, in a – surprisingly for him – literate and researched column).

What’s the real disaster scenario? Let’s say the relocation goes through. The Jets/Coyotes make big money in Hamilton. Suddenly, many owners who (a) have backed Bettman and (b) own teams in the southern States suddenly want to pick up and move stakes north of the border – Winnipeg, Quebec City, maybe Halifax, maybe Saskatoon, and at least one or two more in Toronto proper. Bettman’s dreams for the NHL to become a major American league are dust: the established Canadian teams are unwilling to share more of the lucrative television contract, and attempts to get American corporate support dry up in the instability, screwing up the bottom lines of many of the remaining American franchises. In the ensuing carnage Bettman will not only be removed as commissioner but possibly also be sued for negligence: the new league commissioner will come in in the midst of a boardroom revolt, and internal fighting will create a boardroom ‘China Syndrome’ that’ll set the NHL back, on a business standpoint, for a generation.

More NHL teams in Canada will, in the end, increase the NHL’s bottom line and lead to a more stable and profitable league (barring another Canadian dollar nosedive). But Bettman and most of the NHL can’t think that far ahead. Hell, I don’t think their thought processes could take them through an entire NHL season.

The last and final word, I promise, on the NDP leadership convention

It’s hard to imagine that the NDP leadership vote last Saturday was anything but the worst of all possible worlds for both Dwain Lingenfelter and the party. Link got a 55-per-cent vote in the second and last round of balloting, and by most indications is going to have problems uniting a party that’s anxious for generational change and not certain that a 60-year-old oil executive has anything relevant to say about being on the lower end of the social and economic scale – the NDP’s heart and political home.

Firstly, imagine what would have happened if Link’s ‘Waterhengate’ had gone undetected? Well, Link would have had a first round victory by a substantial margin … instead, he goes to a second ballot and has to face the fact that a good chunk of his party will demand to have their voices heard, especially on nuclear energy. Lingenfelter is not going to go in as the Master of His Domain: he’s got to compromise, schmooze, and massage some wounded egos. He’s not good at that. Never has been. It never was in his job description: it never was what he was hired for.

Secondly, I’m more than a bit surprised about Higgins’ poor showing. I thought the coalition that elected Lorne Calvert would have done better. This, frankly, shouldn’t bode well for the NDP establishment.

And lastly, there’s some serious problems for the NDP in its ability to recruit members and attract new ones (membership – especially membership sales – is critical to the NDP because its volunteer base, theoretically, offsets the deeper financial pockets of the Sask. Party’s corporate backers). The NDP had about 18,000 members voting at the 2001 convention which brought Lorne Calvert to the premiers’ chair (Wikipedia): just over 9,000 voted on June 6, with another 3,600 members sitting this one out (Murray Mandryk, one of the few reasons to buy the Leader-Post).

So either there’s a number of NDP members who feel alienated from the leadership process of their own party … or there’s a couple more Waterhengate-style membership sale fiascoes the party doesn’t want to talk about.

All in all, the NDP has a lot of work to do in order to convince Saskatchewanians that they’re ready for governing this province. A lot of people within the NDP think that getting re-elected is merely a matter of marching. I don’t think they really understand how the psychology of this province has changed: and they’re unable or unwilling to contemplate the changes that they need to make in order to take on Brad Wall in a meaningful way.

Six In The Morning

1 AFTER WEST WENT RIGHT, EAST GOES LEFT Nova Scotia voters booted their decade-old Progressive Conservative government and elected an NDP majority as voters province-wide followed Halifax's lead (Chronicle Herald). By the way, "majority" = 45 per cent of the vote. Isn't Canadian democracy swell?

2 SWINE FLU BEEFING UP? World Health Organization officials are thinking about breaking out the P-word. (Globe And Mail)

3 FOOTBALL PLAYER MIGHT RUN FOR SASK. PARTY IN NDP TOWN Curious to see how this plays out. Makowsky says he thinks Brad Wall's done a "fabulous job" as premier so presumably he supports all the Sask Party government's union-busting legislation. But that's all right, trade unionists don't watch football. More here. (Leader-Post)

4 CHINA TO SHED ECO-CRIMINAL REP? The world's emerging superpower says it's going to be the world's first green superpower. (Guardian)

5 ABORTION CLINIC CLOSES AFTER DOCTOR MURDERED What do you know--terrorism works. (Wichita Eagle)

6 HAMILTON JETS BATTLE RAGES ON Balsillie declares victory after judge asks NHL to submit a "relocation fee". (Toronto Star)