TORONTO (Sep. 8) — It appears as if local hockey fans will be treated to a dying spectacle this season as the Toronto Sun and Toronto Star will dispatch writers/columnists to road games with the Maple Leafs.
This was common practice at both newspapers until the second half of the NHL season a year ago, when the Star froze its travel budget. Rather suddenly, hockey scribes Kevin McGran and Mark Zwolinski, and columnist Dave Feschuk, found themselves limited to covering home games while writing road matches off the TV. It was the first time, dating to at least the early–1960’s, that the Star failed to staff all Leaf games; such notable writers as Red Burnett, Frank Orr, Jim Kernaghan, Rick Matsumoto, Paul Hunter, Damien Cox, Ken Campbell, McGran and Zwolinski keeping tabs on road games and practices for Canada’s largest daily. Travel, last season, resumed in the playoffs, with McGran and sports columnist Bruce Arthur covering Games 1, 2, 5 and 7 of the opening–round series at Boston. But, when the entire Toronto Blue Jays travel budget in 2018 was scrapped — Richard Griffin and Laura Armstrong also reduced to covering road games off the TV — there were fears the hockey budget would not be resurrected. Then, along came No. 91.
“John Tavares changed the dynamic,” said a Star source. “When he signed as a free agent (July 1) and the Leafs were considered a legitimate Stanley Cup contender, the travel money re–appeared. Some heavy–hitters (most–notably McGran and news/sports columnist Rosie DiManno) lobbied hard with the bean–counters to restore the hockey budget. It took some arm–twisting, but [publisher] John Boynton and [human resources director] David Callum were persuaded to send one person on the road. There’s still a question as to whether (columnist) Feschuk or (writer) McGran will do the majority of the trips (with DiManno occasionally filling in). And, games out west in the United States (Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Jose, Las Vegas, Arizona, Colorado) may not be staffed at all. Like most newspapers across North America, [the Star] is trying to cut everything to the bone. But, the hockey writers [McGran and Zwolinski] are among the most–widely read because of their connection to the Leafs. So, it makes sense to resume travel. We’ll see how far it goes.”
The newspaper industry, of course, has been nearly disabled by the Internet, blog–sphere and social media. “There are Millennials — teenagers and those in their early–20s — that have probably never held a newspaper in their hands,” said the Star source. “The physical paper is the domain of people 40 and over, which is not a prime advertising demographic. So, the industry is dying a slow painful death.
“News, today, is available instantly. No one has to read about it the next day.”
With respect to sports coverage here in town, the Sun — a tabloid that rose, in November 1971, from the ashes of the old Toronto Telegram — continues to staff every road game involving the Leafs, Blue Jays and Canadian Football League Argonauts. Make no mistake, PostMedia, which owns the Sun, has significantly hacked budgets; laid off people; bought out established, recognizable journalists and ruined young, promising careers since acquiring Sun Media from umbrella–owner Quebecor in 2015. Paul Godfrey — friendly, likable and once among the most–revered figures in the newspaper industry — has incurred a profound reputation hit while overseeing the corporate slashing at PostMedia. Tabloids, nonetheless, prevail largely off sports coverage and travel budgets for the Toronto teams have therefore been maintained.
This resulted in the Sun kicking the Star’s ass on the Josh Donaldson saga. Just prior to the Blue Jays starting a weekend, inter–league series at Miami, Aug. 31, veteran baseball (and former Leafs) reporter Rob Longley made an enterprising side–trip to Dunedin, Fla., on the Gulf coast, and home of the Blue Jays minor–league complex. Longley corralled Donaldson — on a rehab assignment; having missed virtually the entire Major League season — and the 2015 American League MVP broke his silence on the fractured relationship between he and the ball club (which resulted in a trade to Cleveland). Donaldson’s comments were picked up by wire services, TV and radio — a terrific scoop for Longley and the Sun, largely because there was no competition on the ground in Florida. Griffin, the Star’s baseball columnist, was left to pen reaction from home. It was an embarrassment (through no fault of Griffin’s) to the 126–year–old broadsheet.
Though politics (federal, provincial and municipal) is far–more important to the Star than sports, publisher Boynton likely wishes to not be humiliated by the Sun on Leafs stories this year. Lance Hornby, Terry Koshan, Michael Traikos and Steve Simmons ensure that PostMedia is on top of every local hockey issue; McGran, Zwolinski, Feschuk, DiManno and Arthur would get trampled alive by being kept home. So, perhaps hockey competition still resonates in the Toronto newspaper industry. If even temporarily.
NHL ARENAS UP CLOSE — PART 2
In the second of a three–part series, a pictorial look (in random order) at homes of the 31 NHL teams.
SCOTIABANK SADDLEDOME (Calgary AB) — CALGARY FLAMES
GROUND BROKEN: July 29, 1981 / BUILDING OPENED: Oct. 15, 1983
FORMER NAMES: Olympic Saddledome (1983–95) / Canadian Airlines Saddledome (1995–2000) /
Pengrowth Saddledome (2000–2010)
THE SADDLEDOME IS THE THIRD–OLDEST ARENA IN THE NHL, TO MADISON SQUARE GARDEN (1968) AND THE REFURBISHED NASSAU COLISEUM — NOW KNOWN AS NYCB LIVE (1972).
THE SADDLEDOME HOSTED THE 1985 NHL ALL–STAR GAME AND THE 2000 NHL DRAFT.
THIS GRAINY PHOTO SHOWS THE SADDLEDOME FLOOR (AND THE FIRST EIGHT ROWS OF SEATS) UNDER WATER FROM THE ALBERTA FLOOD OF JUNE 19, 2013. THE EVENT LEVEL OF THE ARENA, INCLUDING THE HOCKEY DRESSING ROOMS, WAS DESTROYED AND HAD TO BE RE–BUILT.
LITTLE CAESARS ARENA (Detroit MI) — DETROIT RED WINGS
GROUND BROKEN: Sep. 25, 2014 / BUILDING OPENED: Sep. 5, 2017
LITTLE CAESARS ARENA IS THE RED WINGS’ THIRD HOME, AFTER OLYMPIA STADIUM (1927–80) AND JOE LOUIS ARENA (1980–2017). IT IS SITUATED KITTY–CORNER, IN DOWNTOWN DETROIT, TO FORD FIELD (NFL LIONS) AND COMERICA PARK (UPPER–LEFT IN PHOTO), HOME OF THE BASEBALL TIGERS. THE RED WINGS HOSTED BOSTON (Sep. 23, 2017) IN THE FIRST GAME AT THE ARENA, AN EXHIBITION MATCH.
VIEW FROM THE PRESS BOX AT LITTLE CAESARS ARENA.
FANS LEAVE LITTLE CAESARS ARENA AFTER THE RED WINGS BEAT MINNESOTA, 4–2, IN THE FIRST REGULAR–SEASON GAME AT THE NEW FACILITY — OCT. 5, 2017.
AMALIE ARENA (Tampa FL) — TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
GROUND BROKEN: Apr. 14, 1994 / BUILDING OPENED: Oct. 20, 1996
FORMER NAMES: Ice Palace (1996–2002) / St. Pete Times Forum (2002–12) /
Tampa Bay Times Forum (2012–14)
AMALIE ARENA IS LOCATED IN THE PICTURESQUE CHANNELSIDE DISTRICT OF DOWNTOWN TAMPA. A LARGE EMBASSY SUITES HOTEL (FAR–LEFT) WAS ONE OF MY FAVORITE STOPS ON THE NHL CIRCUIT WHILE COVERING THE MAPLE LEAFS FOR THE FAN–590.
THE TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING WON THE STANLEY CUP AT AMALIE ARENA ON JUNE 7, 2004, EDGING CALGARY, 2–1, IN GAME 7 OF THE CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND. THE ARENA HAS TWICE HOSTED THE NHL ALL–STAR GAME: 1999 AND 2018.
ROGERS PLACE (Edmonton AB) — EDMONTON OILERS
GROUND BROKEN: Mar. 3, 2014 / BUILDING OPENED: Sep. 8, 2016
PERHAPS, ONE DAY, THEY’LL CALL ROGERS PLACE THE “HOUSE THAT CONNOR BUILT”. IN THE MEANTIME, IT REPLACED THE SECOND–OLDEST ARENA IN THE NHL — NORTHLANDS COLISEUM — WHICH OPENED IN 1973 AND, LATER, HOSTED THE DYNASTIC OILERS OF WAYNE GRETZKY AND CO.
PRIOR TO THE OILERS FIRST REGULAR–SEASON GAME — vs. CALGARY (OCT. 12, 2016) — ORANGE, BLUE AND WHITE TOWELS WERE CLEVERLY PLACED OVER THE RINK–LEVEL SEATS TO DEPICT THE HOCKEY CLUB’S LOGO. THE ACTUAL SEAT–DESIGN (BELOW) IS FAR–LESS COLORFUL.
WHO ELSE BUT 19–YEAR–OLD CONNOR McDAVID SHOULD HAVE TAKEN THE FIRST STRIDES AT ROGERS PLACE? THIS FROM SEP. 1, 2016, ONE WEEK BEFORE THE BUILDING OPENED.
PPG PAINTS ARENA (Pittsburgh PA) — PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
GROUND BROKEN: Aug. 14, 2008 / BUILDING OPENED: Aug. 18, 2010
FORMER NAME: Consol Energy Center (2010–16)
BUILT ACROSS THE ROAD FROM THE OLD PITTSBURGH CIVIC (THEN MELLON) ARENA, PPG PAINTS ARENA HAS ALREADY HOSTED TWO STANLEY CUP FINALS — THE PENGUINS WINNING IN 2016 AND 2017. BOTH CLINCHING VICTORIES, AGAINST SAN JOSE AND NASHVILLE, OCCURRED ON THE ROAD. THE FACILITY OPENED AUG. 18, 2010 WITH A PAUL McCARTNEY CONCERT.
YELLOW–OUT DURING THE 2017 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS.
WHEN PPG PAINTS ARENA (WHITE ROOF, ABOVE) OPENED, IT SAT ACROSS THE STREET FROM THE PENGUINS FIRST NHL HOME — CIVIC ARENA (RE–NAMED MLLON ARENA IN DECEMBER 1999); KNOWN AS “THE IGLOO” FOR ITS DOME–SHAPE… AND ITS HOCKEY TENANT. SOON–AFTER, MELLON ARENA WAS DEMOLISHED (BELOW) FOR PARKING SPACE. I WAS FORTUNATE TO COVER THE FINAL GAME IN THE OLD RINK (MAY 10, 2010), WHEN MONTREAL ELIMINATED THE PENGUINS FROM THE PLAYOFFS.
ENTERPRISE CENTER (St. Louis MO) — ST. LOUIS BLUES
GROUND BROKEN: Dec. 14, 1992 / BUILDING OPENED: Oct. 8, 1994
FORMER NAMES: Kiel Center (1996–2000) / Savvis Center (2000–06) /
Scottrade Center (2006–18)
THE HOME OF THE BLUES IS NOW ON ITS FOURTH NAME IN 23 YEARS — ENTERPRISE HOLDINGS INC. (HEADQUARTERED IN ST. LOUIS; INCORPORATING THE ALAMO, ENTERPRISE AND NATIONAL CAR–RENTAL COMPANIES) ASSUMING TITLE RIGHTS FROM SCOTTRADE SECURITIES ON JULY 1, THE SAME DAY THE AIR CANADA CENTRE HERE IN TOWN BECAME KNOWN AS SCOTIABANK ARENA.
AFTER ITS INITIAL SEASON OF HOCKEY, THE KIEL CENTER (AS ORIGINALLY NAMED) HOSTED THE 1996 NHL DRAFT. DEFENSEMAN CHRIS PHILLIPS WENT FIRST TO THE OTTAWA SENATORS.
SCOTIABANK ARENA (Toronto ON) — TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
GROUND BROKEN: Mar. 12, 1997 / BUILDING OPENED: Feb. 19, 1999
FORMER NAME: Air Canada Centre (1999–2018)
CRANES FINISHED HOISTING “SCOTIABANK ARENA” TO THE WEST FACADE OF THE FORMER AIR CANADA CENTRE ON JULY 1 OF THIS YEAR. NAMING RIGHTS SOLD FOR $800 MILLION OVER 20 YEARS.
HOW SOON CAN THE LEAFS ADD A STANLEY CUP BANNER TO THE 11 WON BEFORE 1968?
THE NEWLY–TITLED SCORE–CLOCK ABOVE CENTER–ICE AT SCOTIABANK ARENA.
HONDA CENTER (Anaheim CA) — ANAHEIM DUCKS
GROUND BROKEN: Nov. 8, 1990 / BUILDING OPENED: June 19, 1993
FORMER NAME: Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim (1993–2006)
BUILT IN THE EARLY–90’s BY THE WALT DISNEY COMPANY — ORIGINAL OWNER OF THE DUCKS — THE ARROWHEAD POND OF ANAHEIM WAS THE MOST OPULENT ARENA OF ITS TIME, WITH MARBLED WALLS IN THE CORRIDORS AND PLUSH, LEATHER SEATS IN PRIVATE BOXES. GIVEN THE WARM CALIFORNIA WEATHER, THE BUILDING IS ALWAYS BEAUTIFUL FROM THE OUTSIDE.
THE HONDA CENTER (WHITE ROOF) IS SEPARATED FROM ANGELS (BASEBALL) STADIUM OF ANAHEIM BY CALIFORNIA INTERSTATE–5, THE SANTA ANA FREEWAY.
BARCLAYS CENTER (Brooklyn N.Y.) — NEW YORK ISLANDERS
GROUND BROKEN: Mar. 11, 2010 / BUILDING OPENED: Sep. 21, 2012
FOR SOME REASON, THE ISLANDERS FELT IT SENSIBLE TO MOVE FROM THEIR FOREVER–HOME IN UNIONDALE, N.Y. TO A NEW ARENA IN BROOKLYN CONFIGURED FOR BASKETBALL.
BARCLAYS CENTER IS RENOWNED FOR OBSTRUCTED HOCKEY SEATS (ABOVE AND BELOW).
IT IS PERFECTLY–SUITED AS A HOME FOR THE NBA’s BROOKLYN NETS.
NYCB LIVE (Uniondale, N.Y.) — NEW YORK ISLANDERS
GROUND BROKEN: Jan. 20, 1969 / BUILDING OPENED: Feb. 11, 1972
RE–OPENED AFTER RENOVATION: Mar. 31, 2017
FORMER NAME: Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum (1972–2017)
IN AUGUST 2015, AFTER THE ISLANDERS ANNOUNCED THEIR MOVE TO BROOKLYN, THE COLISEUM BEGAN TO UNDERGO A $165–MILLION RENOVATION. THE ARENA AS IT APPEARS TODAY.
MY PHOTOS (ABOVE AND BELOW) OF THE ORIGINAL NASSAU VETERANS MEMORIAL COLISEUM DURING A HOCKEY TRIP WITH THE MAPLE LEAFS IN DECEMBER 2012.
THE COLISEUM DURING RENOVATION (ABOVE). AND, AN AERIAL SHOT (BELOW).
THE RENOVATED INTERIOR OF THE COLISEUM (ABOVE), NOW KNOWN AS NYCB LIVE. THE ISLANDERS WILL PLAY 20 GAMES IN THEIR OLD/NEW HOME THIS SEASON (AS PER SCHEDULE, BELOW).
NATIONWIDE ARENA (Columbus OH) — COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
GROUND BROKEN: May 26, 1998 / BUILDING OPENED: Sep. 9, 2000
HOCKEY INVADED OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY TERRITORY IN 2000, WITH THE ARRIVAL OF THE COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS. NATIONWIDE ARENA HOSTED THE 2007 NHL DRAFT (PATRICK KANE TO CHICAGO, FIRST OVERALL) AND THE 2015 NHL ALL–STAR GAME.
THE “ARENA DISTRICT” OF COLUMBUS DURING THE 2015 NHL ALL–STAR WEEKEND.