While appearing between games on Sportsnet’s coverage of yesterday’s All-Star festivities, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman sat down with broadcaster Ron McLean to discuss the future of the Calgary Flames and their ongoing battle with the City of Calgary regarding government funds for a new arena. The conversation started cordially, but like so many conversations with the NHL’s boss, it devolved into a contentious exchange rather quickly.
“From talking to ownership in Calgary on a regular basis, they’re not on the same wavelength (with the city),” Bettman said. “What’s clear to me is that there’s no basis for a deal anytime soon which is why the Flames have given up the pursuit.”
Wow… given up? The Flames have been one of the NHL’s most successful franchise’s over its 35+ years in the NHL. To pull out of the city over a spat with city council on tax money would be the definition of insanity… but then again this is Bettman we’re talking about. Money has a strange power over him…
“The whole problem is, no matter how the city dresses it up, the fact of the matter is they’re looking for the Flames to pay for the whole thing and that doesn’t make sense,” Bettman complained to MacLean. “Well, why doesn’t it make sense?”, shot back MacLean. All Bettman could manage back was a token, “there’s no basis for construction under the current economic circumstances.”
The Flames have called the Scotiabank Saddledome home since 1983. The team’s facility is the oldest in the entire NHL and is dire need of replacement. There’s been much debate in the city as to whether or not the city, funded by taxpayers, should be investing its money into a new arena or not. After all, why prop up a sport’s franchise worth billions when they have the means to do it themselves? Can’t city funds be allocated for more pressing matters? On the other hand, if the Flames decide to play hard ball, they could find a better arena deal elsewhere, forcing themselves into a relocation scenario. Certainly neither side wants matters to come to this, but with hundreds of millions of dollars at stake, neither is prepared to blink during negotiations.
Negotiations have gone sour since Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi was re-elected this past October, but the mayor has remained resolute in his stance. “Our argument is the city needs to somehow share in the upside if we’re going to share in the cost,” Nenshi has maintained again and again.
Judging from Bettman’s words on Sunday afternoon, the NHL and the Flames haven’t changed their approach either. What the future holds for the Flames and the city of Calgary is anyone’s guess at this point.
Matthews accused of tampering at the All-Star Game
In other All-Star Game news, Toronto Maple Leafs superstar Auston Matthews has found himself in a bit of hot water after admitting that he's been working over fellow All-Stars Drew Dougthy and Erik Karlsson this past weekend, in an effort to lure them to his team come free-agency.
According to multiple reports, Matthews was actively “recruiting” pending free-agents Dougthy and Karlsson this weekend at the 2018 NHL All-Star Game.
Wow… the Leafs’ media should have a field day with this! What’s your take? An overreaction from those who claim Matthews committed tampering? Or, is there an argument to be made that Matthews crossed a line?
No doubt the NHL will review what was said during the discussions, but don’t hold your breath on any meaningful penalty or suspension. After all, the hockey world is a small community and this wouldn’t be the first time that players talked to each other off the record about their future plans. Still, if either Doughty or Karlsson end up signing with the Leafs in the summer of 2019, you can BET that Los Angeles Kings fans and Ottawa Senators fans will be calling for Matthews’ head!