September 11, 2012
Flames pull out of charity golf tourney
By ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency
CALGARY - Add local charities to the list of victims threatened by the NHL’s pending labour stoppage.
Months after committing to participate in the Calgary Flames annual charity golf tournament slated for Thursday, the players informed the team late last week they are pulling out en masse.
The move is not without reason or merit as it was done so that many can attend the hastily-called Players’ Association meetings in New York City Wednesday and Thursday, which coincide with the tourney and pre-event luncheon.
While it’s clear the priority for everyone involved is to try avoiding the league’s pending labour stoppage scheduled for midnight Saturday when the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires, the move only does more harm to the players’ image, as frustrated fans see charities taking a hit.
Not only are the players destined to lose the CBA war, it appears the public relations battle they seemed set to ‘win’ is also in question. If that even matters anymore.
After all, not every player will head to New York, leaving the door open for many to continue playing in an event that is one of just a few mandatory appearances the players are contractually obligated to be at.
“We’re disappointed but completely understand the uniqueness of the situation for our players,” said a diplomatic Flames president and CEO Ken King.
“We are very grateful that all our sponsors and participants want to continue to support the tournament. They totally appreciate that the heart of this event is about important fundraising for local charities.”
The tourney, which raised $340,000 last year for the Flames Foundation for Life (and distributed to local charities) will obviously still proceed. Instead of a Flames player, prospect or staffer playing with every five-some, an Olympian, NHL alumni, coach or other local celebrity will step to the fore.
Sponsors who paid upwards of $2,500 per player for the tourney, played simultaneously at Country Hills and the Links of GlenEagles, have been given the option of a refund. As King alluded to, the masses have pledged to continue their support, despite their frustration as they don’t want local charities to suffer.
In other words, the corporate community and fans will save the day, just as they will in November or December when this latest financial fight is resolved, and fans threatening to do otherwise will in fact stream back into rinks across Canada and in some parts of the U.S.
Make no mistake, the Flames employ (for another few days anyway) a respected group of players who generously give their time to help raise millions annually for the Flames Foundation. They shouldn’t necessarily be crucified for what seems on the surface to be a callous move.
But they will be, especially when needy families and underprivileged kids are potential casualties of a fight pitting millionaires vs billionaires.
The optics aren’t great but, then, neither is the situation.
Ironically, Flames community relations staffers were originally thrilled with the number of players who confirmed a month ago they’d play, as it was a clear directive from the NHLPA to ensure players did their best to continue business as usual until the Sept. 15 deadline.
After all, they are the ones who would rather continue playing under the current parameters and salaries.
Just last month, Curtis Glencross ran his inaugural charity roughstock event, raising $170,000 for central Alberta charities with a unique rodeo/poker tourney.
“Well, obviously, its a tourney that we like to play in,” Glencross said Monday. “It goes to a great cause and we get to interact with fans and sponsors, but the biggest thing on our plate right now is trying to settle the big picture of playing.”
However, now team officials are scrambling to come up with 72 “celebrities” to round out the field. The two-day event kicks off Wednesday with a luncheon at the Saddledome featuring Dennis Hull, one of the funniest speakers in the sporting world.
Far more entertaining would be seeing NHL hockey return sometime soon — something hopefully made possible by a pricey jaunt to Manhattan.
A trip so expensive it also comes at a cost to locals in need.
On Twitter: @ericfrancis