Edwards/Giguère Testimony - 11/5/98 (Part 6)

25 May 1999

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    Mr. Carmen Provenzano: Mr. Mills, it's something like that, but I guess what I'm saying is that I'm amazed a group providing this kind of training doesn't come here saying, "Look, this is what we're doing. We're providing valuable training for people to take up an occupation in a big industry. We get no consideration for it. What can you do for us?"

    The Chairman: When we in fact help nearly every other sector of the economy through Human Resources Development Canada.

    Mr. Carmen Provenzano: That's my point.

    The Chairman: I think it's an excellent point. Thank you very much.

    Mr. John Cannis.

    Mr. John Cannis (Scarborough Centre, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and let me welcome the presenters and congratulate them on a very nice presentation.

    I want to start off by saying I do agree with you that we have failed, and I think we've begun a program where we do recognize our athletes. I think your suggestion about bringing the champions in and giving them the recognition they deserve should be something we should commence immediately. I'm sure you're aware that we've already done this with other athletes.

    My colleague Mr. Clouthier made a statement earlier. I'd like to make a brief statement now. I want to refer to page 17. I was very moved by some of the things on that page of your submission, under "Community Relationships". Just as some examples, you note that the Swift Current Broncos helped out the community in those difficult times; that the Kamloops Blazers provided stuffed teddy bears to needy children during Christmas; that the Halifax Mooseheads raised over $120,000 for hospitals, etc. I believe this stuff has to be highlighted even more, because I'm inclined to believe this is refreshing news to hear-and I use myself just now as an example. It's news I intend to talk about out there. Inasmuch as they've addressed some difficult issues, your league has to put this at the forefront.

    In addressing some of the issues you have raised, I want to also commend you on your initiatives on addressing the abuses you were unfortunately faced with, as you discussed. The program that you now have in place was a quick response.

    My question to you is with respect to non-Canadian players who come into the league. How are those players and their expenses addressed? We have Canadian boys going from one city to another, etc., and there are provisions for that. But if an individual from Kazakhstan or wherever is brought into the league, knowing how the league has changed and is now operating under different rules, how are his expenses addressed?

    With respect to the scholarship fund that you referred to, I don't see why the young men would not have the opportunity to access these funds if they indeed meet the prerequisites for entering into post-secondary programs. It seems to me you've provided a forum in which they indeed can secure the credits or the programs needed to apply for post-secondary education. So, Mr. Chairman, I don't see why they would not have access to the millennium fund money that the Prime Minister has allocated.

    In closing, let me tell you of one experience that Madame Tremblay and I had. We've officially designated hockey as our winter sport, and when we're there in the arena celebrating at the Olympics, we all come together, as Madame Tremblay will remember. We're there cheering Canada on, etc., and then we walk out of that arena and it stops. Beyond bringing the champions to Parliament Hill for recognition and congratulations, do you have any other suggestions about what we could do to celebrate these successes and these young people, whether they be male or female? And you know women's hockey today is really very exciting and on the move up.

    I think this cooperation that now exists, as you have described, can only enhance the opportunities for young men and women to promote hockey and their future careers. What can we do to promote this good news you've presented us with here?

    Mr. David Branch: I wish we had a nice easy answer to that. I don't know what it's like in the political arena, but in the sport industry it's sometimes tough to get those newspaper people to write nice things and good news. I'm sure it's not like that in-

    The Chairman: No, Mr. Branch, it's the reverse in politics. We're really tough on one another in here, but we're okay when we go out there.

    Voices: Oh, oh!

    Mr. David Branch: Anyway, we appreciate your comments, and we can assure you that they are not isolated to these examples we've given you. As you say, I think it's important for us to continue to work toward recognizing some of the work that does go on in a very positive vein.

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    Let me be so bold as to come back to you to say that one of our recommendations for consideration about interlocking regular season games is important to us, because what we have clearly seen is that our country is very regionalized in a number of its views and attitudes.

    Our leagues are very regionalized. When we look at TV, we get very good ratings when we play our Memorial Cup games. When we play our prospects game, with the top forty players together, we get very good ratings. But if Rimouski is playing Halifax, people in the east love it, but from central Canada on over they could care less. As a way to try to keep the momentum going, as you say, to get the people excited and keep them excited, we think having interlocking regular season games on a regular basis would keep a lot of focus on the big picture and keep the interest high.

    The Chairman: I don't want you to lose your train of thought, but has anyone ever approached a major air carrier on that specific point? It would seem the biggest cost there would be air travel. Obviously, moving from one part of the country to another could be done if you had the support of Air Canada or Canadian Airlines through reduced-

    Mr. John Cannis: Discount fares.

    The Chairman: Has anybody in your-


    Ms. Suzanne Tremblay: They could redo it for $199.


    An hon. member: Do you think they could do it for $199.

    The Chairman: No, it has to be less.

    Have you ever looked at that?

    Mr. Dev Dley: If I could answer that, yes, it's certainly a consideration we've had, but our interest is in trying to expose our players, our fans, to various components and various regions of the country. Those are not necessarily the same interests a sponsor may have.

    The Chairman: Interesting. That's unless it was a sponsor who believed in pulling the country together and believed in major junior hockey as a vehicle that could really do it.

    Mr. John Cannis: Just on my other question, maybe you can give me a quick answer. For the players who come from outside the country, how are their expenses looked after?

    Mr. Dev Dley: We bring the players over, and they are then treated exactly the same as any other player. It's encouraged that those players go to school and that they take English as a second language. It's critical for us to make sure they become adapted to the Canadian and North American way of life, because those players ultimately come into our country and into the CHL so that they can also take the next step forward and become professional hockey players. It's the best training for them in terms of getting integrated into the North American way of life.

    Mr. John Cannis: This is my last question. On the $12 average ticket price that you have listed here, are you referring to Canadian dollars?

    Mr. Dev Dley: Yes.

    Mr. John Cannis: Can you give me the price of the average ticket in the U.S.?

    Mr. Dev Dley: It wouldn't be significantly different.

    Mr. John Cannis: Would it be $12 U.S.?

    Mr. Dev Dley: It would be $10 to $12 U.S.

    Mr. John Cannis: Thank you, Mr. Chair.

    The Chairman: Madame Tremblay.


    Ms. Suzanne Tremblay: Have you counted the number of players from your leagues who were drafted in the first round in Buffalo and who made the National League club in the fall? I know that Vincent Lecavalier made it to the club, along with the player who was drafted by the Calgary Flames, but did the others go to the National League? I'm only talking about the players drafted in the first round.


    The Chairman: What's the number of players who stuck?


    Mr. Gilles Courteau: There are eight or nine, but they are still junior players. They are 18 or 19 years old.

    Ms. Suzanne Tremblay: What about some kind of regulation that would make an agreement possible? Could there be some way of ensuring that players from abroad-not those from the U.S., but those from Europe, Eastern Europe or Asia-are not drafted before the third pick? Is there any way to ensure that the two first picks are reserved for Canadians, regardless of whether they are trained here or in the U.S.?

    Mr. Gilles Courteau: You mean picked for the National Hockey League?

    Ms. Suzanne Tremblay: That's right. Is that sort of regulation feasible?

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    Mr. Gilles Courteau: Ms. Tremblay, when you set up a collective recruitment centre like the one run by the National Hockey League, or the two other junior hockey leagues, your principle-your primary goal, is to rank players according to talent, regardless of where they come from.

    Ms. Suzanne Tremblay: But there were two categories in the book submitted to Buffalo, Canadian League players and others.

    Mr. Gilles Courteau: That's right.

    Ms. Suzanne Tremblay: So you could easily decide who ends up in table 2, just on the basis of the third or the second draft. Canadian players would be recruited first.

    Mr. Gilles Courteau: I don't think we would want to do that for a national league club, but it is a point we could raise during our next round of negotiations with the National League.

    Ms. Suzanne Tremblay: Mr. Coderre asked about the $850,000. I would like two of your colleagues to answer, so that we have some idea how much a franchise costs in Ontario and in the West. Does that $850,000 amount go to the league? For example, what happened when the Laval Titan went to Bathurst, who paid whom, how is the money divided?

    Mr. Gilles Courteau: When the Laval Titan was transferred to Bathurst, no money was paid as such-the franchise was transferred. The only money actually paid out was $30,000, so that a special committee could do some assessment, determine whether the arena was satisfactory and met established criteria and specifications, as well as get on with the other related activities.

    If approval is given, expenses are then deducted from $30,000, and the rest is made over to the club or to the individuals who gave us the $30,000 to do the study in the first place.

    Now, as for how the $850,000 are distributed, here is how the LJMQ works. Out of the $850,000, we keep $75,000, and put it into an equity fund. All LJMQ clubs have $75,000 in an equity fund, and we give them the interest on that each year. In previous years, the remaining $775,000 was divided among all clubs in the LJMQ when an expansion franchise was added.

    For the Ontario league, an expansion franchise costs $1.5 million. For the western league, it costs $750,000.

    Ms. Suzanne Tremblay: And the procedure-the investment in equity funds and distribution among clubs-is about the same.

    Mr. Gilles Courteau: Yes, it is.

    Ms. Suzanne Tremblay: Thank you.

    The Chairman: Thank you, Ms. Tremblay.


    Mr. Branch, I have a couple of short questions. On the scholarship question, we're talking about all sports, of course, but what type of impact would a full scholarship program in the realm of CIAU hockey have on the Canadian Hockey League?

    Mr. David Branch: As we know, we sometimes get involved in a recruitment process when there's a young man who has to make up his mind about whether he wishes to play in the CHL or pursue an athletic scholarship opportunity with the NCAA. If the CIAU were to have a scholarship program per se, I believe it would only serve to assist the CHL in some respects-recruiting players to stay at home and so forth-provided there was an arrangement made between the CHL and the CIAU. We would need an understanding in terms of how those funds would in fact be applied, and would need to know if they would in fact offset some of our costs. In some situations, what we have seen is that some of the CIAU schools that do provide support for athletes will say that they know a player is getting so much from team X, so they will then just give him y dollars to bring it up to a certain level.

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    The Chairman: Mr. Coderre, did you have a short question? We must leave here at six o'clock.

    Mr. Denis Coderre: Yes.


    I'd like to ask you a question about the future. Rather than have the three leagues play out their season and then have the Memorial Cup, why shouldn't we think of a true Canadian national hockey league? Somewhat like the National Hockey League, during the whole year, Quebec's teams would play against teams from the West and Ontario. This would allow the players to get better acquainted with our country, and would make hockey much more exciting. Is this in your plans for the future?


    Mr. David Branch: We would very much like to see that type of arrangement come about, because we see that there is great interest when we do get together at the Memorial Cup. We feel that if we could only expand it by having an interlocking schedule of games, it would really assist us. We have also spoken about even doing away with the Memorial Cup tournament and having playdowns that would see the top two teams come together and so forth. So there are a number of things we're considering.

    The Chairman: Mr. Provenzano, it has to be very short.

    Mr. Carmen Provenzano: Mr. Chairman, I have to comment on your question that relates to the scholarship program, because it goes right back to my question.

    If you put a value on the training and said it was x number of dollars a year, and if you linked that up to whatever dollars might come from whatever government source and used those dollars somewhere else in your educational programming, you could then offer to each member of the team who goes on x number of dollars. You could have a trust and divide the pie. That reduces the contingent liability on these teams, which is getting to be horrendous. Isn't that a fact?

    The Chairman: Mr. Provenzano, you've touched on a very important issue here. I think we're going to have to explore it in a little more depth with HRDC.

    Mr. Carmen Provenzano: But the value, the contingent liability-

    The Chairman: There's no question about what it would do.

    We only have a couple of minutes left, and I want to just ask one sensitive question before we wrap this up.

    It's been a very tough week because of this incident with the player in Windsor. Does the league ever think that maybe sometimes the coach could have some role to play in an incident like that, and that there should be some kind of consideration of discipline for the coach as well?

    Mr. David Branch: I think there are times when you certainly consider that through the process that was conducted in this instance. There was a hearing held, and the player and the coach were both there. Questions were asked and that avenue was certainly considered with them, but there was certainly no reason to think that was the case. In fact I think Windsor acknowledged-as did the player-that they had been working extra hard with this young man to see if he could in fact improve his skills to a higher level.

    The Chairman: On behalf of all of our members, I want to thank you for coming before us today with a great report. You are leaders of a league in this country that is providing a great service to many different communities. You are providing an example to many young kids, young children, and you're pulling families together.

    Again, on behalf of not just the committee, but the whole House, we thank you. We're going to take all of your comments under consideration, and I'm sure your presence will be there when our report comes out at the end of November. Thank you very much.

    Mr. David Branch: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    The Chairman: The meeting is adjourned.