To invoke an image that the Calgary Flames and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman will understand, the clock is showing zeroes, the horn has sounded and one team is the unambiguous loser – theirs.
On Monday, Naheed Nenshi was re-elected as Calgary's mayor. The result stands as a rebuke to Mr. Bettman and his disgraceful attempts at meddling in the election campaign, which he did by essentially calling on voters to boot out the incumbent for being insufficiently generous in offering taxpayer funds to the Flames' proposed new arena.
Sadly, the defeat of the plutocrats is not how these games usually end. Bully tactics and relocation threats have been a boon to sports leagues for decades. And this game isn't over yet; it's safe to assume the Flames, who are owned by some of Canada's richest people and who are angling for a new $500-million barn, will not go meekly into the night.
After Mr. Nenshi was returned to office, the Flames director of communications took to social media to lambaste voters and say the mayor "is worse than @realDonaldTrump being president."
The team quickly dismissed that as a personal opinion. They needn't have bothered. It reflects the official line.
The Flames should remember, though, that Mr. Nenshi has a mandate not to budge from his initial, more-than-generous offer, which included about $200-million in public money.
We encourage him to stand firm. Calgary faces deep financial challenges due to stagnant revenues and flagging downtown commercial occupancy rates. It should focus its energy, and its taxpayers' money, on projects benefiting all citizens, such as a long-planned public-transit expansion.
The good news is that Canadian cities and provinces have generally been far less inclined to cave to billionaire sports owners than their American counterparts. To take one absurd example of the prevalence of corporate sports welfare south of the border, Madison Square Garden in New York, one of the busiest arenas on the continent, situated on some of the priciest real estate on Earth, hasn't paid a cent in property tax in decades. That subsidy is worth close to $50-million (U.S.) a year.
All seven Canadian NHL teams return at least some money to their local municipality – although three pay little to no property tax – and most play in privately held buildings. That's how it should remain, Calgary included.
The arena-funding game isn't over in Calgary, but the metaphorical puck is now wedged in the Flames' end. For that, they have only themselves and their elbows-high style of play to blame.