1142 for publication January 15, 2016
Oh-dear-me. Gary, Gary, Gary, there you go again, stepping in it, all antsy and tempermental to a fault, hell-bent on saving those Western rubes from themselves.
Of course I’m referring to Gary Bettman, the Grand Imperial Navigator of All Things NHL. Arriving in Calgary this week and speaking to the Chamber of Commerce, he figured while he’s in town why not drop in for a quick meeting with the Mayor? So he requested an audience the very next morning, but was informed Mayor Naheed Nenshi was booked into a council meeting, and would be unavailable. The NHL Commissioner was shutout, so to speak.
Well, in his Chamber speech, Gary went into his “fluttery-eyed snit-mode” and among other testy utterances directly suggested Nenshi get a move-on with their plans to build a new arena. Also included were a few vague, veiled threats concerning the Flames NHL future. Mistake made.
He made much of the fact the Saddledome was the now oldest arena in the League, and did Albertans want that degrading label?
One of the replies made by the mayor was a classic, tit-for-tat sarcastic put-down. “”I know that Calgarians require very wealthy people from New York to come and tell us what we need to do in our community.” Ouch!
Bettman might want to reconsider underestimating his targets. Especially Mayor Nenshi, a man who has already won a reputation as someone who skates through turmoil and adversity, and comes out the other side with good results, and Calgary’s interests intact.
Remember the summer of 2013, when Calgary was dealing with floods that submerged their Stampede grounds, and also the Saddledome up to the eighth row of seats. His Honour oversaw that recovery from a catastrophic event and in two weeks opened and staged the Stampede, plus the arena was refurbished and open for the NHL season.
These are but one of many examples of a municipal politician who steps up when required, and in his off-disaster time continues to maintain his popularity.
He does well, because he’s a man of the people, and despite his generally welcoming appearance takes no guff when it comes to Calgary. He reminds political observers, and me, of former Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion. All things considered, Mr. Bettman was fortunate he never crossed swords with Hurricane Hazel. She dismantled many political meddlers, and in this case she would have sent Bettman yelping and hot-footing it to Pearson airport in a hurry. But I digress
So, in comes Gary B., with some ill-conceived snotty remarks to relate to his audience, saying the Mayor should move it on plans to build a new arena.
Be advised this is a project to be situated on “shaky ground,” creosote contaminated soil to be exact, and the entire complex will entail environmental studies and decontamination. With the arena, a stadium for the CFL Stampeders, ancillary buildings, and parking, the price tag? Almost $900-million, with taxpayers in for shouldering plenty of the cost.
With cost-overruns, the wonky dollar, and the dicey Alberta economy adjustments, a $Billion-plus is probable. Therefore this project needs study, consultation, transparency, and all-level participation, not sniping, nor the “bum’s rush.”
There’s nothing hidden about Gary Bettman coming across as flippant and disdainful. If you’ve ever been an attendant at one of his lockouts, you know how sanctimonious, narrow-minded and aggravating he can be. That’s his prerogative with the Players Association, owners, the teams, and players of his NHL.
But outside his world, it doesn’t need drop-in last minute meetings. It requires serious concerns to be discussed and resolved. In this particular case it could also use a healthy injection of tact.
Given his off-base remarks that many felt came across as a reference to Calgary’s future in the NHL, Bettman bristled and back-pedalled. “I’m not here to suggest that. I’m suggesting it’s obviously not a good thing for the franchise or the city if the project isn’t a reality. Beyond that, please don’t put words in my mouth.”
Obviously they’ll have to wait until Uncle Gary get’s his foot out of there.
At least Nenshi can call for a lockout any time Gary’s ol’ tried-and-tested dodge seems like a good one.