Quebec stands apart by subsidizing National Hockey League (NHL) preparatory matches with millions. Without paying a penny, cities like Halifax and Wichita, Kansas, hosted the Bettman Tour before the regular season kicked off.
Less than half of the approximately 15,000 seats at INTRUST Bank Arena – the amphitheater in Kansas’ largest city – were occupied when the Arizona Coyotes faced the St. Louis Blues on September 23. It is impossible to know whether the event was profitable. One thing is certain, taxpayers would not have had to foot the bill in the event of a deficit.
“We worked with a local promoter who came to an agreement with the teams and took the financial risk of organizing this match here,” replies AJ Boleski, general manager of the complex. No government entity offered financial assistance for this game to be hosted in Wichita. »
The municipality corroborates the words of the person who runs the amphitheater: taxpayers’ money was not used to present professional hockey in a city that does not have an NHL team. Unlike what is planned in Quebec in 2024, where the Los Angeles Kings must settle down to play two games in five days at the Videotron Center from October 2 to 6, the Wichita duel was only a meeting. you for one night.
The stay of the Kings in the Old Capital is accompanied by a hefty bill for taxpayers: 5 to 7 million which will be paid by Quebec to the promoter Gestev in the form of a subsidy in order to absorb the excess expenses of the event.
This decision by the Legault government was strongly criticized in a context where we agree to subsidize a professional team while public finances are “tight”, according to the Minister of Finance, Eric Girard. NHL hockey could also have been presented at no cost to taxpayers, since the Montreal Canadiens had offered to play in Quebec without requesting public financial support.
The outcry even seems to create a certain unease within the CAQ troops. On Thursday, the Minister of Education and Member of Parliament for Lévis, Bernard Drainville, recognized that the timing of the announcement had been poorly chosen.
“I hear the criticisms, I understand them and I agree with you that the timing is not ideal,” he said, on the sidelines of an announcement at Laval University.
Recognizing that the granting of the subsidy was “not unanimous”, Mr. Drainville tried, as best he could, to defend his government by considering that it was an “investment” to remind the circuit Bettman that Quebec “exists”.
Stay without invoice
Halifax is among the cities considered by the NHL to be “neutral grounds” where a preparatory clash can be held. The Pittsburgh Penguins and their captain Sidney Crosby – originally from Cole Harbor in Nova Scotia – spent four days there at the end of September before facing the Ottawa Senators on October 2, at the Scotiabank Centre.
“Our organization did not obtain funding to host this match […] and to our knowledge, no funding has been requested,” says Erin Esiyok, director of marketing and communications at Events East, manager of the approximately 12,000-seat amphitheater located in downtown Halifax.
The Nova Scotia government has not taken out its checkbook, confirms The Press a spokesperson, Susan Mader Zinck.
The Press also conducted an audit with Independence, Missouri. On September 30, the Dallas Stars and the Blues visited this city of 122,000 inhabitants for a clash. At the time of writing, the municipality had not responded to questions sent by email.
Public money in Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City, described as a place of potential NHL interest, has hosted preseason games for three years in an event called Frozen Fury. The Kings faced the San Jose Sharks at Vivint Arena – which can accommodate 14,000 spectators in hockey configuration – on October 5.
“We are sponsoring the game through the Jazz, but we are not hosting it ourselves,” said Bridget Farfel, vice president of communications for the Utah Sports Commission.
Each year, this non-profit organization – partly funded by the state – sponsors several dozen events, such as freestyle skiing competitions, speed skating competitions and professional golf tournaments. In 2021, its sponsorship spending amounted to approximately US$5 million for all events.
Among NHL preseason games played on “neutral ground”, some took place in the city where a team’s American Hockey League (AHL) farm club is located. This is the case for the Dallas Stars. The team took place in the HEB Center in Cedar Park, home of the Texas Stars.
The place was the scene of a pre-season duel between Dallas and the Coyotes on September 24.
“This match was part of the Dallas Stars program and Cedar Park did not offer financial support for this event,” assures Fran Irwin, spokesperson for the municipality, by email.
- Opponents of the Kings in Quebec: the Boston Bruins and the Florida Panthers
Government of Quebec
- Number of seats at the Videotron Center in hockey configuration