A tip of the hat to the much-maligned Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment oligarchy.
The proprietors of the rudderless, captainless, bound-to-be-winless Leafs, and the almost-as-hapless NBA Raptors, are giving back to the community, ponying up $1.5 million in partnership with Home Depot Canada to refurbish Toronto’s crumbling indoor and outdoor arenas. The corporate benefactors have vowed to repair a minimum of six rinks a year between now 2013, with MLSE (independently assessed value $1.5 billion, $383 million in revenue, 22 per cent profit margin) providing the cash, and Home Depot, the materials and labour.
All snarkiness aside, it is a gesture worth applauding.
But what truly is remarkable about this story is the fact that the country’s largest city has not fully funded the construction of a new municipal arena for 28 years. As the Star notes, most of Toronto’s 51 indoor rinks are now well past their best before date. This in a city with who knows how many active players, 100,000? 200,000? (Global estimates aren’t readily available, but the main minor hockey body, the GTHL had 36,447 registered players last season.)
It’s not like rinks aren’t being built elsewhere. And usually with a pile of federal and provincial tax dollars. A surprising amount of Ottawa’s much-vaunted $33 billion in infrastructure spending is going to rinks and rec centres, especially under the Municipal Rural Infrastructure Fund which is targeted at smaller towns and cities. Earlier this month, Chelsea, QC received $6.1 million from the feds and the province towards its new ice. Moncton, NB officially opened its new NHL-size rink in April, grace of $1.1 million in federal and $1.9 million in provincial funding. La Pocatière, QC is receiving $7.9 million from the two levels of government to make its hockey dreams come true. The list goes on and on.
The government of Ontario, which didn’t conclude an infrastructure funding framework deal with Ottawa until this past July, (the McGuinty and Harper governments don’t play well together) has nevertheless managed to find cash under its own $450 million Municipal Infrastructure Investment Initiative to help build or refurbish ice sheets in communities like Port Hope, Ignace, Kincardine, Manitoulin Island, and Pickering.
Toronto understandably has other priorities for its share of the cash—transit, roads, water and sewage. But it’s a hell of a thing when the self-professed Centre of the Hockey Universe is relying on corporate hand outs just to change the light bulbs and paint the dressing rooms. Maybe somebody should start a campaign to convince CBC to stage Hockey Day in Canada down the street from its broadcast centre.