Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Finally, a Government Investigation on NHL Territorial Rights

The timing could not be any better. Reports from the National Post tell us that Canada’s Competition Bureau (CCB) is looking into the legality of the NHL’s policies surrounding territorial rights. The most important point from Tedesco’s article (though I suggest you read it) is that the NHL policies conflict with the Canada Competition Act, which regulates companies from monopolizing markets. Last year, the CCB dropped their investigation after meeting with the NHL, who said that franchise relocation no longer requires a unanimous decision from the board, but a majority. A new investigation launched last month is now looking into a clause that allows clubs (e.g. Toronto and Buffalo) to veto any decision from the board. It is this veto power that opposes the Canada Competition Act, and nullifies the ‘majority rules’ decision that was added to appease the Bureau.

Whatever happened to a free market? Imagine a city that allows established businesses to veto other businesses from setting up shop on the other side of town so that everyone in the region has to travel and shop there for the product. That is essentially what Balsillie faces in moving the Predators to Hamilton. This situation is unethical, and highlights how the NHL has been allowed to operate like an oligarchy. Whatever happened to the days where sports teams were viewed as ‘clubs’, emerging from the collective support of fans, instead of franchises, where fans are viewed more as a means of generating income, or as a statistics for getting lucrative television deals? As Hamiltonians, and more generally as Canadians, we need to be more vocal about this issue if we ever want to reclaim hockey as our national sport.

We can only hope that the combined effort of Balsillie and Canada’s Competition Bureau will not only confirm that Hamilton’s NHL dreams have been hampered by greedy owners and ‘old boys club’ camaraderie (if you don't believe me, read this), but will set the stage for an NHL club representing Hamiltonians and others from the Golden Horseshoe.

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