Sunday, October 11, 2009

NHL's Oilers-Leafs almost swapped cities

New book about Peter Pocklington says NHL's Oilers-Leafs almost swapped cities

The Canadian Press

A new hockey book says the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs almost swapped cities in the early 1980s. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/files-Ballard-stf, Pocklington-str-Ray Giguere)

EDMONTON — A new hockey book says the NHL's Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs almost traded cities in the early 1980s.

The biography of one-time Oilers owner Peter Pocklington says the scheme called for the entire team to move to Toronto to play in Maple Leaf Gardens.

The Leafs, in turn, would have found a home in Edmonton's new arena, which at that time was called the Coliseum.

In the book "I'd Trade Him Again," Pocklington says Leafs owner Harold Ballard was having financial troubles and made the proposal in 1980.

Ballard also wanted Pocklington to pay him $50 million in cash.

Pocklington, who was vilified in Edmonton when he traded Wayne Gretzky in 1988, says he was all for the market swap, but Ballard backed out in the end.

"I was actually pretty excited," Pocklington says in the book, which hit store shelves last week. "I did the numbers. Christ, I would have made a fortune in Toronto."

The Oilers had joined the National Hockey League in the 1979-80 season and played their first game on Nov. 21 against the Maple Leafs in Toronto. The young Edmonton team would hoist its first Stanley Cup just five years later and win it five times by 1990.

But a young player named Gretzky and the other young rising stars on the Oilers were attracting attention long before that first Stanley Cup win.

Gretzky scored 55 goals and had a total of 164 points in his second NHL season.

The book points out that the Oilers were league leaders in attendance and were playing in a new building with more seats than Maple Leaf Gardens. As well, those were the heady days of Alberta's first big oil boom and there were plenty of people with cash in their pockets to expand the Oiler customer base.

The Leafs, on the other hand, didn't look so good. The book says the roster was being gutted by general manager Punch Imlach and the team was losing ground in the standings after he traded away fan favourites Lanny McDonald and Tiger Williams. The Leafs only won 28 games in the 1980-81 season and finished last in their division.

And Maple Leaf Gardens, which was 50 years old at the time, was crumbling.

But the blockbuster deal never happened.

Pocklington isn't sure where it went wrong.

"I don't know," he says in the book. "Ballard backed out. He was a crazy old bugger."

The book's authors, J'Lyn Nye and Terry McConnell, suggest Ballard probably found another source for the cash. They point out it was around the same time that he recruited Molson Brewery as a partner in the Leafs.

That deal, however, would lead to a decade of power struggles, lawsuits and familial strife that wasn't resolved until Ballard died in 1990.

Pocklington basked in his team's glory until Aug. 9, 1988, when Oilers fans were stunned by his announcement that he was trading Gretzky to the Los Angeles Kings. "I'd Trade Him Again" takes another look at what went on behind the scenes to negotiate a deal that left Gretzky crying in front of the microphones and fans burning effigies of Pocklington in the streets.

Gretzky, who wrote the foreward for the book, appears to hold no ill will against Pocklington.

"I have no hard feelings whatsoever," he writes. "I consider Peter a friend, and I hope he feels the same way."

By 1997, Pocklington was mired in his own money difficulties. His bank called in his loans and he eventually sold the team to a consortium of local buyers and moved to the United States.

He is currently facing a trial in California on charges of bankruptcy fraud.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

HST and condo

Condo crowd ramps up for HST fight
August 29, 2009

Special to The Star

Ontario MPP Yasir Naqvi will face some tough questions next month when he's expected to take part in a luncheon panel organized by the Association of Condominium Managers of Ontario.

As parliamentary assistant to Ontario Revenue Minister John Wilkinson, he'll be there to sell the new harmonized sales tax to a sector that will be hard hit. And for sure, the 250 condo managers expected at the Sept. 18 event will be a tough audience.

"He's going to get roasted alive," predicts Armand Conant, president of the Canadian Condominium Institute, who is also on the panel.

Condo managers, owners and representatives dread the HST, which will blend the 5 per cent GST and 8 per cent provincial sales tax into a single 13 per cent tax on July 1, 2010.

"We figure it's going to be a 6.5 per cent (maintenance fee) increase strictly related to the HST for roughly 504,000 condominium units in Ontario," says ACMO president Chris Antipas.

Just last week, the Condo Owners Association-Trinity Spadina, representing more than 200 condominiums in central Toronto, held a press conference, publicizing the negative impact of the HST on condos and its effect on affordability.

Some maintenance fee expenses, such as insurance and water, are GST-exempt and won't attract HST. But services, including management, concierge, housekeeping and consultants' contracts, now subject only to 5 per cent GST, will have the 8 per cent provincial portion of the tax tacked on for the first time.

Conant emphasizes that reserve funds will also be affected and require topping up. "Everything we see seems to indicate somewhere between 80 and 90 per cent of reserve fund items will be hit by the HST."

Early in June, Naqvi, MPP for Ottawa Centre, took part in a panel on the HST at a well-attended meeting at two Scarborough condominums, the Gates of Guildwood. His presentation was met with incredulity from residents with business experience, who disputed his view of the current PST and one of his key pro-HST argument.

Naqvi said that companies all down the manufacturing line pay PST, and consumers end up "paying tax on tax on tax." Combining provincial sales tax with GST, and establishing flow-through GST-style tax credits, he suggested, would lower prices and soften the HST hit.

"Mr. Naqvi does not know his facts or it is convenient for him to try and mislead," business owner and Gates of Guildwood condo director Wolfgang Kirchner commented by email after the meeting. "Anything that is bought by a business that is for resale is purchased with a PST exemption certificate; only the end user pays the tax, so no tax on tax."

In a recent telephone interview, Naqvi, a lawyer, reiterated his original argument for "modernizing" the PST: "The shoe manufacturer has paid 8 per cent on the leather, 8 per cent for the rubber in the soles, 8 per cent on the laces, and that all has become imbedded in the cost of making those shoes."

The March 2001 Ontario Retail Sales Tax Guide 400-Manufacturers, however, supports Kirchner's comments, explaining in clear language that PST does not apply to equipment and materials used to produce goods.

Condo industry representatives met with Naqvi and government officials last month and more meetings will be held in a bid to find some accommodation for the negative effect on condominium corporations.

"We had a very positive conversation and will continue to work with them to determine some solutions," Naqvi said. "We understand their position better and vice versa."

Conant, from his perspective, commented: "What he (Naqvi) did explain in greater detail was how you have to look at the HST as just one part of an overall proposal by the Ontario government that is both corporate tax, personal tax, the HST, a whole bunch of things."

It's in the context of these overall tax cuts and rebates, Conant says, that the government claims most Ontarians will see a tax reduction, but that won't diminish the HST tax grab at the point of purchase.