Monday’s attempt by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to shake down Calgary for more Flames arena money on the grounds that “the cost is never going to be lower than it is today” didn’t go over too well with subsidy-skeptic Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, leading to one of the better media skirmishes in recent days. First, Nenshi went before reporters and, in essence, said not to listen to anything that NHL guy says:
“I don’t know why anyone would think this is surprising or news, this is the man’s job, this is what he does,” said Nenshi.
“Perhaps in other cities that he has come to, the city councils have just written cheques based on back-of-the-napkin proposals without any consultation to the public or without any analysis, that’s not how we operate here.”…
“I know that Calgarians require very wealthy people from New York to come and tell us what we need to do in our community because they understand vibrancy better than we do,” he said.
Then Nenshi doubled down the next day:
(High point: “I never thought I would have a column in the Hockey News praising the fact that I am willing to ask questions of the NHL commissioner.”)
At which point Bettman went on Calgary radio and got into a fight with his interviewer:
(High point: “It would really be easier for me to explain it if you were not interrupting me,” right after he tried to answer a question about arena subsidies by talking about the owner’s charitable contributions. Second high point: “I don’t comment on clubs’ economics” right after being asked if the Flames turn a profit, immediately followed by saying “their long-term stability will be threatened” if they don’t get a new arena.)
This is shaping up to be a battle for the record books, especially with Nenshi enjoying strong public support for his “prove to me what’s in it for taxpayers” stand on the Flames’ arena plans.