According to QMI Agency’s Bruce Garrioch, Air Canada, the iconic Canuck airline and one of the National Hockey League’s biggest corporate contributors, is threatening to pull its financial support unless the NHL does something to address headshots like the one that Boston Bruins defenseman/sasquatch Zdeno Chara inflicted on Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty Tuesday night at the Bell Centre. While Chara received a match penalty following the hit, the League reviewed video of the incident on Wednesday and ultimately decided against imposing any supplemental discipline.
In response, Air Canada’s director of marketing/communications Denis Vandal sent NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman a letter stating that the increasing frequency of such “career-threatening and life-threatening” incidents was making it “increasingly difficult to associate [Air Canada’s] brand with sports events which could lead to serious and irresponsible accidents … Unless the NHL takes immediate action with serious suspension to the players in question to curtail these life-threating injuries, Air Canada will withdraw its sponsorship of hockey.”
For a league that isn’t exactly flush with corporate cash, Air Canada’s warning cannot be easily dismissed. In addition to holding naming rights to the Toronto Maple Leafs home rink, Air Canada is believed to be a major financial backer of all six Canadian franchises and a few south of the border, as well. The airline’s tough talk will only intensify the spotlight on the headshot issue, which is already front and center via the continued absence of marquee player Sidney Crosby and the recent autopsy revelations of the brain damage suffered by legendary NHL enforcer Bob Probert.
Hockey has always been a sport involving high-speed collisions, and where there are collisions, there are bound to be injuries. Players learn this lesson (some the hard way) long before any of them make it to the big league. At the risk of sounding flip, it’s an accepted occupational hazard, something that can never be totally eliminated without the utter ruination of the game hockey fans (and players) love. Chara is not generally thought of as a cheap shot artist, but only Chara knows whether or not he intentionally tried to run Pacioretty’s head into that metal stanchion. One would hope, given that he may well have ended Pacioretty’s NHL career, that Chara would have had more respect for a fellow player than to intentionally attempt to injure him. Would a suspension have sent a message to Chara and other players that such a perceived lack of respect won’t be tolerated? Will Air Canada’s threat to close its wallet send a similar message to the league’s general managers, who are scheduled to discuss the issue next week in Florida? Watch this space for future developments.
But hey, so long as we’re talking airlines, Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air wants to offer passengers the choice of purchasing either a traditional fixed fare or a discounted fare whose actual value would rise or fall according to the price of jet fuel on the day you travel. If the price of fuel rose after you’d purchased your ticket, you’d have to make up the difference (up to a set maximum). But if the price fell, the airline would refund you the difference. Some industry observers are dismissive of the plan, dubbing it ‘Allegiant roulette.’ At any rate, passengers can’t yet give Allegiant’s new scheme a spin, as an Allegiant spokesperson admitted that “it hasn’t been thought through or developed to that stage.” Good thing you went public with it then, huh? Say, you don’t play hockey, do you?