A double-edged sword

ALISON KORN -- For Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:55 AM ET

While Canadians still are getting burned on the price of sporting equipment, it's now cheaper for Canuck athletes to book warm-weather training camps in the U.S. this winter, because of the soaring Canadian dollar.

This week our dollar hit an historic high of $1.0617 US, and experienced its fastest appreciation ever in the past two months. Along with the impact this is having on consumers buying electronics, cars and books, those in sport also are feeling it.

"There's a positive effect, obviously, for us as we still rely on the trips down south," Athletics Canada coach Les Gramantik said. "Athletes will try to spend some time in Arizona or Louisiana in the early part of 2008. A $100 US night in a hotel would cost $130 Canadian. Now it's going to be $100 or $99 Canadian. That's quite a good opportunity not to have to spend as much money."

The downside is that all prize money from the IAAF is awarded in US dollars. So the $40,000 US that Pickering hurdler Perdita Felicien earned for her 2007 world championship silver medal is dwindling by the day.

Meanwhile, sporting goods retailers are frustrated, saying they can't possibly match prices offered by U.S. retailers, both online and in stores.

For example, a pair of RBK Premier II 8K goalie pads is for sale online by U.S. retailer Hockey Giant for $579.99 US. That's exactly the same amount that Toronto business owner Fiorenzo Arcadi paid "wholesale" for the same pads for his two stores, Toronto Hockey Repair and Goalie Heaven.

Arcadi prices the same pads at $800.

"That's a classic example right there," Arcadi said. "They get it a lot lower than us. If we lower our prices, yeah, it's suicide. These companies are making money off the Canadians."

Almost all hockey equipment now is made in China, so Canadians are at the mercy of manufacturers who know there always will be plenty of Canadians looking for product. And even though Canadians are supposed to cough up customs duty on goods they order from the U.S., it's easy to get around that by declaring the item to be a gift.

While sales of new equipment have slowed at Canadian stores, Arcadi's used equipment business still is growing. He also makes custom lacrosse and goalie equipment, and does repairs.

"I think eventually the Canadian consumer is just going to get angry," Arcadi said. "If Canadians are vocal, the prices will align."

GEMINI FOR OLYMPIAN

Congratulations to Phyllis Ellis -- a member of the 1984 Canadian women's Olympic field hockey team -- who won the 2007 Gemini Award for best individual performance in a comedy program or series for the episode I Don't Want To Lose You To L.A.

The show, produced by Henry Less Productions and appearing on CMT, follows a country music family that returns to its roots in Canada. Ellis, also an artist and filmmaker, beat out Rick Mercer of the CBC's Rick Mercer Report and John Cleese in the Just for Laughs Gala series.

SHOW JUMPERS IN TOWN

Pan Am Games gold medallist Jill Henselwood, bronze medallist Eric Lamaze and equestrian legend Ian Millar headline the show jumpers who will compete at the Canadian show jumping championships this weekend in Toronto.

The championships are part of the Royal Horse Show at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair at the Ricoh Coliseum. The final begins tomorrow at 12:45 p.m.

SISTERS SHOOT FOR GOLD

Cambridge sisters Jacqueline Gaudet and Jennifer Wakefield are key members of the powerhouse Team Canada competing at the 2007 world ringette championship in Ottawa this weekend. Wakefield, a centre, is team captain while Gaudet plays defence. The two play for the Cambridge Turbos and are aiming to help Canada reclaim the world title over defending champion Finland. Canada has won four world golds since the event began in 1990. Sweden and the U.S. are the other teams competing.


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