Prime Minister Martin today announced that the federal government will take over
the National Hockey League and run it as a “sacred trust, just like health
care.” The announcement came as pressure mounted for the government to do
something to end the current NHL shutdown.
“No Canadian should be deprived of NHL hockey during hockey season,” Martin
said. “We will take over the NHL and run it in the public interest, just like we
run the government of Canada.”
In an hour-long news conference, the prime minister outlined reforms to the
national game that his government will present to an emergency session of
Parliament next week.
“To protect the NHL from further Americanization, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman
will be fired and replaced immediately by Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson,”
Asked whether the Governor-General knew anything about hockey, Martin replied
“Not much, but that Clarkson and 200 of her closest friends would be leaving
immediately on a fact-finding tour to investigate hockey-government relations in
Hawaii, Fiji and Monaco.”
To address long standing concerns about escalating violence in hockey, Martin
said the government will increase the number of linesmen and referees to 12 per
game, one official for each player on the ice. In addition, Canada’s gun
registry legislation will be amended to require all hockey sticks to be
Once nationalized, all NHL teams will be subject to federal government
guidelines for gender equality, affirmative action, and non-discrimination in
“Inability to skate, shoot, or pass,” Martin said, “will no longer be a
sufficient reason for denying any Canadian an opportunity to play in the NHL”.
Martin added that in future all NHL teams will also be required to abolish the
position of “right wing” from their rosters. Asked why, Martin said it was
necessary to increase support for hockey among union members, and to secure NDP
backing for the NHL nationalization bill in Parliament.
The PM affirmed that “the great Canadian principle of equalization will be fully
applied to our national game. The current distribution of NHL teams in Canada is
unacceptable to this government - it violates the principle of regional equality
Alberta and Ontario to have two NHL teams each while some provinces have none.
Commencing next season, the Toronto Maple Leafs will be moved to Fredericton and
the Edmonton Oilers to Charlottetown.”
Martin declared the seating arrangements at NHL hockey rinks “unacceptable” as
well. “We do not accept two-tier medicine in this country and we cannot accept
multi-tier seating at hockey arenas. It’s un-Canadian.” Martin explained that
former public works minister Alfonso Gagliano will be put in charge of a program
to flatten the seating arrangements in all NHL arenas.
Asked how spectators in the back rows would be able to see the game, Martin said
the government is devising a plan for rotating spectators from back seats to
front seats between periods. “It is our intention, in the interests of fairness,
to ensure that any
inability to see the game is fully equalized among all spectators,” Martin said.
“It’s the Canadian way.”
In recognition of the principle of “asymmetric federalism,” and to secure the
support of the Bloc Quebecois for the nationalization measure, Martin also
confirmed that the Montreal Canadians will be exempted from the proposed
Finally, to pay for the nationalization program, the government’s next budget
will include a Fan Tax, an Ice Tax, a Puck Tax, a Stick Registration Fee and a
new 115-per-cent income tax bracket for any hockey player making more money than
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