Air Canada should butt out

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:10 PM ET

TORONTO - I clicked on the Air Canada website yesterday to check on an upcoming flight and it appears that their new motto is ‘Go Far.’

Which is shocking because, as a long time passenger, I was sure their motto was ‘Go $#%^ Yourself.’

I’m kidding ... sort of.

Air Canada’s service, at least from personal experience, has improved in recent years — and I offer them kudos for that. Of course, I haven’t travelled as much lately, so my bitterness has somewhat dissipated.

However, I am not at all impressed with the airline’s threats to cut sponsorship ties with the NHL over the league’s handling of head shots — threats that come in the immediate wake of Zdeno Chara’s hit on Max Pacioretty, the Montreal Canadiens’ winger who suffered a severe concussion and a fractured vertebra when Chara ran him into the stanchion that separates the two benches at the Bell Centre.

The NHL ruled that Chara did not attempt to injure Pacioretty and did not suspend the big Boston Bruins defenceman.

But Air Canada rushed into the fray this week by threatening to cut sponsorship ties with the NHL — a threat, in my opinion, motivated by politics — and that, I believe, is ugly and wrong.

You don’t think there are politics in play here?

Let’s cut to the chase.

Where are Air Canada’s corporate headquarters located?

Who does Pacioretty play for?

Hey, there are a lot of angry people in Montreal right now because of the Pacioretty injury.

Tell me again there aren’t politics involved. Or worse, strategic marketing.

Do you honestly think that if this tragic incident occurred in Columbus in a game between the Blue Jackets and Atlanta Thrashers, Air Canada would be taking the stand they are today?

Where was Air Canada when the Canucks’ Todd Bertuzzi broke Steve Moore’s neck with a cheap shot from behind? Perhaps Air Canada didn’t want to risk offending Vancouver fans, many of whom fly the airline on a regular basis.

Where was Air Canada when Claude Lemieux almost took Kris Draper’s head off in the boards during the playoff series in 1996? Lemieux played for Colorado and Draper for Detroit.

You could go on and on.

Where’s the consistency? Where was Air Canada’s corporate conscience in those previous cases? Terrible injuries and ugly head shots have been around the NHL forever.

It’s easy to say Air Canada is taking a so-called responsible stand now.

But I don’t buy it. I think that Air Canada has too much to gain with this sudden outpouring of corporate responsibility. It reeks of politics and trying to take advantage of a bad situation.

And that to me, that is an insult to Pacioretty.

On top of everything else, threats like this set a bad precedent.

The idea of league’s dancing to their corporate puppet masters is bad.

The idea of any sponsor dictating policy is ill-guided and leaves the door open for manipulation.

If Air Canada follows through with their threats, are they also prepared to walk away from their lucrative charter deals with some of the Canadian NHL teams they fly and the Toronto Raptors? Are they prepared to pull their name off of the Air Canada Centre?

The suggestion has been made that there might be a basic flaw in the Bell Centre’s design, that the stanchion is dangerous and shouldn’t be there in the first place. Perhaps Air Canada should publicly demand that the Bell Centre look into that. I wonder if they will.

In any event, corporate sponsors should butt out. If they have a problem with the entity they’re sponsoring, then don’t renew, or make their point out of the public eye. That way, the ugly spectre of politics stays out of it.

Does the NHL comment on Air Canada’s record of poor service?

Maybe Air Canada should worry about their own problems.

Hey, I don’t like the way Air Canada has treated me on occasion over the years. You don’t hear me whining about it. On the other hand:

http://bit.ly/hkza2q

http://bit.ly/flSH6H


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