High Cost Hockey

D. LEO DOLAN March 1 1932

High Cost Hockey

D. LEO DOLAN March 1 1932

High Cost Hockey


Says this writer: “Frankly, I don't believe there is a simon-pure amateur hockey team playing senior hockey in the three Maritime Provinces"


HOCKEY clubs in the Maritime Provinces are making their most determined effort in the history of Canadian sport to bring the Allan Cup, emblematic of Canada's amateur hockey championship, to the Atlantic seaboard. Whether this campaign will be successful is pretty much in the lap of the gods, but one thing is certain. Despite the depression more money than sport followers in this part of Canada ever believed was available for hockey is being spent by these Maritime moguls to produce a championship team.

The high cost of “amateur” hockey in the Maritime Provinces is appalling. Indeed. I believe the drain on the financial resources of the sport leaders is so great this winter that the death-knell of Allan Cup competition in the Maritimes is to be sounded once the play-offs in 1932 are completed.

Just about a year ago Fred Edwards, who used to be one of our best known newspapermen in Halifax, roused the ire of some of the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association

executives when he charged that amateur hockey was pretty much of a farce in the Dominion. We in the Maritimes. who have been following the activities of our so-called amateur teams in the last few years, knew full well that what Mr. Edwards had charged in his articles was correct. Frankly, I don’t believe there is a real simón pure amateur hockey team playing senior hockey in the three Maritime Provinces this winter, and there were not more than one or two in existence last winter either.

Some will say. particularly in the Maritimes, that conditions are not one bit worse here than in other parts of Canada. And perhaps they are right. I have no definite knowledge of amateur hockey conditions in Upper Canada —the name we Maritimers use in referring to Montreal, Toronto, Hamilton and other cities—but I have my suspicions. I do know that many “amateurs” who were playing in Upper Canada last year didn’t engage in their hockey pursuits for the mere “love of the game.” The old spirit of “I’d die for Rutgers” isn’t so prevalent as it used to be. Some of these “amateurs.” finding that hockey moguls of the Maritimes were in a generous mood, came down this way because here the salary cheques were bigger than in those larger centres. Of course, it may be that in Ontario, with their highly organized hockey association, the boys are not getting any direct money for their hockey services, but you can’t make anyone down in the Maritimes believe that,

especially those who have had some dealings with the supposedly pure "amateurs” of Upper Canada.

I have written of conditions in the Maritimes as I know them, and it is not the punx>se of this article to make any definite assertions about the inside activities of a section of Canada, with the athletic affairs of which I^un not familiar.

Amateur Hockey Is Costly

X-JOCKEY has become a big business in Canada, and in the United States, too, for that matter. The amateurs in Ontario and the West have always been as popular, if not more popular, with hockey followers than have the pros. The result has been profitable for those amateur clubs who have made hockey their main sport. Human nature is still human nature, and I doubt if the hockey player in Ontario. Quebec or the West is a bit different in temperament or financial genius than the hockey player in the Maritimes. Each will get as much of what someone has called “the filthy lucre” as the other. Perhaps, for all we know, the amateur hockey player in Upper Canada and the West may be doing even better in a financial way than his brother in the East.

Only a few nights ago I talked with one of the men who is putting up the money for a team that may possibly be, and at this writing looks like the best bet for the Maritimes entry into the Allan Cup play-offs. He told me frankly that it would cost in the vicinity of $23,000 to operate his dub this season. The salary' list of that team is around $700 per week. The players, supposed to be amateurs, do nothing but play hockey, figuring in three games per week and presenting themselves to the club treasurer every' pay day for their monetary consideration. Continued on page 53

Continued from page 21

There are about six teams in the Maritimes who are operating on the same basis as the professional teams operated in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia more than fifteen years ago. I think it is a conservative estimate to say that these six teams will cost the combined club owners $100,000 to operate this winter. I doubt if the Moncton, Fredericton, Charlottetown, Dalhousie, Halifax and Truro clubs can get through this season for a figure less than the amount quoted above.

There are eleven “amateur” players in the Maritimes today drawing as high as $75 per week for their services. Others are getting $65, and $60, while even the lowest paid “amateur” on any of these ranking teams is drawing down $30 per week. Back in the days when the professional leagues were operating in the Maritimes, when the Sydney Millionaires went to Montreal to compete for the Stanley Cup, the highest paid player wasn’t getting more than $40 per week, and yet the club owners in those days couldn’t finish the season without going behind financially.

Thus it does not require any great knowledge of mathematics or finance to predict what is going to happen to “amateur” hockey in the Maritimes after the present season is ended. I know of one club in the Maritimes that last year went behind $5,000, and another that was $3,500 in the red. This winter these same clubs have tackled the job of getting an Allan Cup winner on the ice, and they are spending more money than last. To continue such a policy must only lead to financial disaster. Most cities and towns in the Maritimes are certainly not large enough to stand the financial strain.

Imported Players

T TNDER the residence rules of the ^ Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, it is imperative now that any player who is to figure on a club competing for the Allan Cup must be a resident of the city or town where he is to play on or before May 15. The amended rule, adopted this year to curb the activities of the “amateur tourist”

hockey player, is going to make the operation of “amateur” clubs, in the Maritimes at least, more expensive. Any player who is to figure on a next winter’s hockey team in the Maritimes must have been a resident of the city or town in which he is to play on i January 1, 1932. But the rule does not prevent some of the players who this winter are wearing the Fredericton colors, for instance, from jumping to Halifax or Truro or Moncton, providing they.have established ! residence in those cities before May 1 next. The amended rule simply prevents any ¡ “amateur” from Ontario or the West from j journeying to the Maritimes for next winter’s hockey season. The new ruling is j therefore likely to put a crimp in the Allan ; Cup aspirations of the Maritimes and make ! “amateur” hockey in this part of the Dominion a fine study in high finance.

When the Truro Bearcats, with a somewhat disabled team, won the Maritime title last year and travelled to Hamilton in quest of the Allan Cup. the Nova Scotians aroused ; a new interest in Allan Cup competition 1 throughout the Maritimes. During the j summer of 1931 several enthusiastic hockey moguls in Fredericton, Moncton, Charlottetown, Dalhousie and elsewhere, got busy organizing their “amateur” clubs for the hockey season of 1931-32.

Players were im|X)rted from all parts of Canada. Moncton brought down to the Atlantic seaboard a whole team from the Western prairies. Fredericton grabbed off I some of the stars in the Maritimes and a few j in Ontario, while Dalhousie annexed a few 1 prominent Maritime players and added a few more from Central Canada. Charlottetown signed two of the Hamilton Tigers : 1930-31 stars, and bolstered their club with , other players from the Maritimes and else-1 where. Nearly all the other clubs imix>rted a , player or two to assist the home talent, with the result that at present the hockey fans in these Maritime Provinces are witnessing the fastest brand of Canada's great winter sport in our history.

But to call these teams “amateur” clubs is but to acknowledge the farcical nature of the Continued on page 56

Continued from page 53

hockey activities in the East. Everyone down here knows these players are being paid money for services rendered. And now some of the club owners, whose local patriotism and enthusiasm let them in for this sort of thing, are beginning to view the whole hockey situation from a business standpoint. They have visions of rather heavy deficits facing them when the season closes.

Thus I believe it is safe to predict that this season will see the end of “amateur” hockey in the Maritimes on the grand scale we I know it today. There is not sufficient patronage to carry the financial load in many of these smaller cities and towns. True, Halifax, Moncton and Charlottetown, with their new artificial rink plants, have sufficient population to support a fairly expensive hockey club. But Fredericton, Dalhousie, Truro and the others, such as Kentville and New Glasgow, cannot hope to go on year after year finishing in the red and still send on the ice a hockey team of sufficient strength to win even a Maritime title, let alone the Allan Cup. And, strangely enough, it is in the smaller towns that a winner must be developed. Once a team starts on the down grade in a small town the attendance falls off and the enthusiasm wanes, with the result that the gate doesn’t begin to bring the financial strength so essential to meet the growing indebtedness. 1

Professionals Cost Less

AFTER all, there isn’t any intense interest in the Allan Cup competition throughout the Maritimes. The fans down this way want to see the best class of hockey possible, hut I doubt if they are prepared to pay in one league alone $100.000 for the privilege of seeing the championship club from that circuit get into the Allan Cup play-offs.

Before the next hockey season rolls around I would not be surprised to see professional ' hockey holding the centre of the stage in ! the Maritimes. I believe that one or two i prominent club owners, who have found the ! cost of “amateur” hockey excessive these last few years, would welcome a change. As ! conditions now stand, the amateur hockey I player in the East is drawing a salary for j twelve months of the year. He is. it is true,

; in some cases, being supplied with employment during the summer, and part of his salary is being paid by some industrial i concern, but throughout the winter the amateur is devoting all his time, energy and attention to nothing but hockey, and his salary is larger then than during the summer i and fall.

If a pro league were formed in the Marij times, the expense to the clubs would not be greater but less. The players would be on salary for four months and not twelve, and the salary list would not be one cent higher during the winter months than it is today.

Furthermore, the club owners would have more efficient control over their players than ! they have today, and the fans would get as j good, if not a better, brand of hockey.

! Arrangements might be made with the National Hockey League clubs to utilize the Maritimes as a “farm” for their surplus ' players and thus relieve the club owners down East of a rather heavy financial burden, a burden which, under this pseudoamateurism. is becoming far too great for the majority of. if not all, the hockey clubs in the Maritimes to carry.

At any rate it is becoming more evident even,' day that “amateur” hockey is too expensive a form of entertainment for the club owners of these Maritime Provinces. Just now the players are reaping a han’est,

; but next season I don’t believe the amateur fields are going to bloom in the same way for these hockey players down by the -sounding sea.