ALSO ON SLAM!
Thursday, December 16, 1999
A familiar refrain
Canucks' financial woes echo troubles of Senators
VANCOUVER --They are singing a tune that's all too familiar to Ottawa hockey fans on the West Coast these days.
Maybe it's because the Senators are visiting GM Place tonight and the Canucks want to make Ottawa players feel at home, but it comes as no shock that the Vancouver franchise has joined Sens owner Rod Bryden's tax fight.
The Canucks announced this week they lost $22 million last year and need $15 million in aid from all levels of government to ensure that owner John McCaw isn't forced to sell the team to interests in the United States.
"We have simply asked that the government treat us like any other industry that is damaged or hurt by domestic or foreign policies," said Canucks chairman Stanley McCammon during a meeting with shareholders.
While there has been speculation aid from the federal government could be announced when the Liberal caucus meets for the final time before Christmas tomorrow, the Canucks have painted a grim financial picture which is similar to the one facing the Senators.
Though McCaw hasn't started entertaining offers from U.S. buyers like Bryden, that could be the next step if the local, provincial and federal governments don't step forward to hand over financial aid.
"We need to see a light at the end of the tunnel to ensure that we can continue in a viable way," said McCammon. "It's not for me to threaten to sell the team. Our job is to find a solution and that's what we're working toward. But we're going to need the help of all constituents in order to find a solution."
Unlike the Senators, the Canucks haven't been completely responsible in their spending and that's why they're going to get a lot less sympathy in the Vancouver market than Bryden has received from politicians in Ottawa.
The Canucks, who pay $3 million in property taxes at GM Place every year, have a payroll of $35 million US and that's more than $10 million higher than what the Senators are expected to spend this year. Vancouver has one of the highest payrolls in Canada and hasn't gotten good value for the dollars it is spending.
"What you want to have is good performance at the lowest price possible," said Anaheim Mighty Ducks president/GM Pierre Gauthier. "That's why the Senators are such a success story, because they've always had good performance at a very reasonable price."
Vancouver GM Brian Burke, a respected hockey man, has been begging fans to come to games. Attendance is down 10% this season and the Canucks aren't even going to qualify for the Canadian Assistance Plan.
The Canucks could receive more than $2 million US in assistance from the league plan, but they haven't met the requirements for season-ticket sales and their revenues are lower than projected.
"We need to get more people in the building," said Burke, who has been chastised in the local media for his $1.1-million salary. "And we need more support from the community and the business community. I'm pleading for that support."