--> Getting It Right: The Penalty Box

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Penalty Box

It turns out that hockey in British Columbia is a lot like politics in British Columbia.

There are moments of sweeping euphoria, times of utter despair, backroom deals with dollar signs written on napkins and, when all else is failing, both just blame the General Manager for the sorry state of affairs.

In a twist of fate far more suited to the machinations in a Zalm-era Premier’s office, the debate over the ownership of the Canucks finally popped up in BC Supreme Court this week.

This is a tale as old as time with allegations of double-crossing, unfair bargaining and advantage being taken by well-heeled and well-connected establishment sons. The scene is set against a backdrop of an unpopular leader (Brian Burke) and a money-losing sports franchise struggling to make it to the playoffs.

But just like party politics, these spats really only get interesting to the rest of us when the combatants take their brawls public. Would the Paul Martin versus Jean Chretien war for the Federal Liberals have been nearly as fascinating if both sides had managed to keep the riding association power plays and short-handed goals under wraps?

There is something in all of us that thrills to a fight, especially one that we don’t expect to see displayed. Maybe it is a throw-back to earlier times of brutal survival, but it takes a strong person (or a liar) to turn away from a little blood on the ice.

Which is why politics and hockey in BC have such a following. They are bloodsports, without the bodies. There may be the odd broken nose, but we don’t have to feel terribly guilty about our lust for the next chapter in the story.

Of course, anyone who has been through the meat-grinder that is Canucks management or provincial politics has a slightly different perspective. Some of them, decades later, are still recovering from often fatal career blows. They might not be actually dead, but I’m sure some of them have wished to be from time to time.

You may ask why the pitched battle over the ownership of the Canucks? That one is easier than following the paper trail of the fast ferries or the brown paper bags of cash. Losses incurred by sports teams can be written off by their owners against other revenue.

It’s basically a way to get your million dollar tax bill reduced at the same time that you get the ego boost of owning the city’s sports soul.

So until icing can be called during Question Period and diving in politics and business is not tolerated by over-worked refs, we can look forward to more twisted tales of games gone wrong.
And we wouldn’t want it any other way.

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