SBD/16/Leagues Governing Bodies

CANADIANS FACED WITH LOSING THEIR NATIONAL GAME

     "While Canada is still hockey's soul, the country is being
buried in a new era of American big money and big markets,"
writes Michael Farber in the current issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED.
Thus far, teams in American warm weather markets are doing well
at the gate after the 103-day lockout, while Canadian teams are
not.  Calgary, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Edmonton are playing to
only 82% capacities, while the NHL sites in the U.S. Sun Belt and
CA are filling 92% of their seats.  Quebec, with the league's
best record, is only drawing 90%, after getting 98% while having
the league's worst record five years ago.  NHL Commissioner Gary
Bettman:  "We're the national sport of Canada, not the national
sport of the U.S.  No matter how large we grow, we won't turn our
back on our roots.  And our roots are up in Canada."  But with
rumors of Nordiques and Jets' moves increasing, Bettman says the
NHL will not stay in Winnipeg and Quebec if they don't get new
arenas:  "I don't view this as blackmail.  My discussions with
the mayors (of Quebec and Winnipeg) have pointed out that if they
want to have a sports franchise in the 21st century, they must
appropriately house them."  The Canadian government, involved in
cultural protection of Canadian movies, TV and magazines along
with business protection, has done little about protecting
hockey.  Parliament member Dennis Mills says he will convene a
hockey task force of government members by the end of April:
"It's time we look at it as an industry.  If we thought General
Motors was going to pull a van plant out of Oshawa (Ont.), we'd
go crazy and make sure it didn't happen" (SI, 3/20 issue).  For
more on NHL attendance, see the THE DAILY's Turnstile Tracker,
featuring the NHL's Eastern Conference.
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