Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Arena Madness Sweeps Quebec

Were you ever in a situation when someone close to you was about to make a horrible blunder and try as you would, you couldn't convince them to alter their course?
It's sad and frustrating, a son who starts running with a bad crowd, a daughter who insists on marrying an obvious loser, a brother who abandons his family in search of a more exciting life or a sister who quits school to take up basket weaving.

Nothing you can do can convince them of their folly and all that's remains is to wring your hands and stand back in sad resignation and wait for the train wreck that is about to unfold.

I feel that way watching the comic-drama that surrounds the potential new arena in Quebec city, as the population, the media, as well as the politicians involved, all race towards disaster, supporting a plan and a course of action that can only spell financial ruin.

The big controversy swirling today, revolves around whether Mayor Regis Lebeaume's under-the-table deal with Pierre-Karl Péladeau and his company Quebecor, giving them exclusive management rights to the building is a good idea as well as the idea to insulate that deal from a legal challenge by way of a special law.

The problem is, that it's the wrong issue to be debating.

It's like your son asking for your advice as to whether he should buy a Harley or a BMW in advance of his plan to run off with a biker gang.
If you're a responsible parent , you might just want to slap some sense into him;

"Harley, BMW. Are you insane? For God's sake, PLEASE DON'T JOIN A BIKER GANG!"

And so instead of debating the merits of the Péladeau deal to run the arena, we need to ask ourselves why on Earth we're undertaking a costly new arena WITH NO FIRM COMMITMENT FROM THE NHL.

Regis Lebeaume in the spirit of Montreal Mayor Jean Drapeau, has sold a bill of goods to Quebeckers, telling them that it's imperative to build an arena first, in order to secure an NHL team later.
He has told everyone who will listen that Gary Bettman, president of the NHL, has told him as much in private and so it must be so....or is it?

Actually, it's pure unadulterated hogwash. Not true. Fiction. Baloney!

It's frustrating to see politicians who are charged with safeguarding the public trust acting so naively and so stupidly.
If Mr. Lebeaume doesn't understand that Bettman is running a game on him and Quebec City he should be ousted from his job for gross stupidity.

Like a trainer holding a biscuit high in the air, just out of the reach of his dog, in a cynical effort to see just how high his dog will jump, Regis Lebeaume has proven he can jump pretty high.

It's strange that Quebeckers don't recognize the same con they themselves have been perpetrating on the federal political parties in Ottawa for decades. 
"Give us more money and benefits and we might vote for you....errr... Maybe."
We all know how that worked out for the Conservatives and the Liberals who gave away the Sun and the Moon and got nothing in return!

What's painfully clear is that Quebec will get a team when Bettman runs out of options for another one of those failing franchises in the southern United States, just like Winnipeg, who backstopped a crumbling Atlanta franchise, which was going down the toilet.

And so getting a NHL franchise in Quebec hasn't got anything to do with a new arena. If it did, Bettman would have long ago sold a new franchise to Quebec City for 200 million, conditional on a new building.

Did any one notice that Bettman didn't seem to care about the smallish arena in Winnipeg which holds about the same number of fans as the current arena in Quebec city, the Colisée?
For Bettman moving a franchise from one city to another is infinitely more palatable than a franchise going Chapter 11 or even worse, just plain folding, bad for the reputation of the league, no doubt.
There is, as we all know, several teams in deep, deep financial trouble, teetering on the brink of disaster.
And so Quebec is held in reserve, for the next franchise flop, which Bettman knows better than any, is going to happen a lot sooner than later.

When that midnight flop happens, Quebec will have its franchise, new arena or not.
That's because there are no viable alternatives to Quebec, Bettman knows it and so should we.
The NHL has run out of cities in the United States that would support an NHL franchise, all that is left is Canada and Quebec is the only location left that doesn't conflict with existing franchise territorial rights.
In the meantime Bettman recognizes Lebeaume for the merry sucker that he is and like an expert con man he successfully strings his mark along.
Bettman must be laughing in his beer at the desperate and panicked lengths Lebeaume is going to satisfy a condition that is really of no import. "Jump a little higher please. Good dog, Regis!"

The pitiful hysteria that grips the Province over the prospect of an NHL franchise is a lesson in collective mania that demonstrates that a good con can be run on anyone including a whole society if the bait is right.

I'm reminded of that old classic musical of 1962, the MUSIC MAN, where an expert con man, in order to sell a small town a bunch of musical instruments, convinces them that they need to form a band to combat youth disaffection. His actions to convince the town  are so burlesque and transparent that one would never believe that a con like that could play out in real life, but alas we are witnessing one and the same, in Quebec City's arena fiasco. It's a bit sad.

I'll bet most of you are too young to have seen this classic and so watch and enjoy a master con artist at work.
Unfortunately, Regis Lebeaume and Garry Bettman need no lessons....

And so ladies and gentlemen, there's trouble in Quebec City!


Late Breaking.......
Several  stalwarts quit party over PQ support for legislation, supporting Lebeaume arena plan.
More tomorrow....


  1. This is just farcical. The PQ has been screaming, stammering, and stamping their feet for an inquiry into corruption in the construction industry for the past two years yet it is they that have proposed this Bill 204. A Bill that would essentially legalize and protect a corrupt deal! Do these people have any clue? And they want to manage their own country? Truly laughable.

  2. Would love to see them defect to Khadirs dipper like party. a 3 way split that could screw over seppies. Would even pave the way for an allo-anglo party in certain Quebec ridings.

  3. ...to Anonymous @ 11:37AM: Re a splintered election: Wouldn't that be nice, esp of Western Montreal comes up with its own Anglo rights party. I think this is exactly why Premier John James "Goldilocks" Charest hesitates to split those oversized Western Montreal constituencies with equal representation like those miniscule pro-PQ constituencies out in the rural areas.

    By not splitting the Montreal constituencies by almost three and amalgamating some of those tiny rural ones, Premier John James "Goldilocks" Charest has everything to lose and nothing to gain in the next election, unless the ruralites suddenly decide to support him. Montreal, based on the demographics, should have 65-70 seats of the current 125, not 28!!!

  4. Am I the only one who sees the irony that the American soft drink company that sponsors the current hockey arena in Quebec City is the same one that sponsors the arena where the former Nordiques play in Denver?

    Colisée Pepsi

    Pepsi Center

  5. @ E.J.C.,

    Pepsi also sponsors the Montreal Forum, where the Montreal Canadiens used to play hockey. It's called the Pepsi Forum now. The forum has been converted to a shopping centre with a large movie theatre complex.

    It would be an understatement to say that Pepsi is a very popular beverage in Quebec.

  6. @ Anomynous 4:22 PM

    I briefly considered visiting the Forum when I visited Montréal in early May, but from the picture I saw on-line there is nothing there to remind passers-by of its former self except for the name. Instead, I went to Bell Centre to see the Hall of Fame and take a tour of the arena.

    Hopefully one day Verizon Center in DC will be as storied, but that won't happen in my lifetime. I'll settle for one measly Stanley Cup banner instead.