Friday, June 13, 2008

National Anthem

I grew up as a big hockey and baseball fan. Playing hockey and baseball was a way to relate to my favourite players. Skill, effort, team work and a bit of luck would be the difference between winning and losing. From a fans perspective the same rules applied to professional sport. The best players would make it to the pros. If a player wasn't pulling his weight he would be benched, sent to the minors or cut outright. Real fans would support their team no matter how bad they played.

The world of sports has changed so much. If fans don't show up, it means they are unhappy with team play or management. Fans need to know about salary caps, escrow account, ancillary revenue streams, drug testing policies, tax regulations etc. If I take public transit instead of paying for parking will my team still sign my favourite player? What if I buy a hot dog and beer instead? This past season I learned how our legal system carries out prison sentences when a Leaf was given permission to serve his DUI conviction in the off season. Decisions made on paper are just as important as play on the ice.

Last week Hockey Night in Canada announced they would not be renewing the rights to play the HNIC them song, spoiling a tradition since 1968. They are still facing a $2.5 million lawsuit for ring tone sales. They were paying $500 each time they played the song to a tune of $60,000 per year. Despite the public outrage it looked like the song might be lost forever. The Premier of Alberta took up the protest and even offered to complain to Don Cherry. The Liberal Heritage Critic suggested that the federal government had an obligation to save the song, although he never brought this view to the House of Commons. CBC responded by announcing their will be a fan voted contest with $100,000 going to the winner. Just what we need HNIC Idol to nail the coffin on a great tradition.

All is not lost. CTV has bought the rights to the song for $2.5 million. As the owner of TSN, RDS and the rights holders to coverage of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, the hockey "anthem" will remain a part of our heritage. The realities of the business world continue to erode the pure enjoyment of professional sports. At least there are some things we can always count on.

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