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Friday March 11, 2011 12:07 am

Air Canada threatens to kill sponsorship with NHL




Posted by Adrien Griffin Categories: Injuries, NHL, Rumors,

Gary Bettman“Air Canada is a great brand, as is the National Hockey League, and if they decide that they need to do other things with their sponsorship dollars, that’s their prerogative.” That was NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s response to the threat from Air Canada to cancel their sponsorship deal with the NHL unless the latter implements harsher punishments for offenders who put others’ safety at risk with their style of play, such as with the hit issued by Zdeno Chara to Max Pacioretty in a game on Tuesday.

Publically threatening the NHL was probably not the best course of action Air Canada could have taken, but it certainly did send a message that they are not comfortable with what they’re seeing in the NHL lately. Perhaps the fact they’re a Montreal-based company and Pacioretty is a Montreal Canadien had something to do with it, but that doesn’t lessen the significance of the announcement. Still, they should have had the foresight to approach the NHL behind closed doors about the matter, not call them out in an open forum.

Why does it seem like Bettman always feels the need to come out and thump his chest in the face of adversity? And why do the owners around the league allow him to do it? Even though it looks like Air Canada is playing a bluff, Bettman still had the audacity to basically say “to hell with you.” Maybe the impact of losing Air Canada’s sponsorship is negligible, but the PR impact to both organizations is going to hurt. Neither decided to be cordial with their words nor did they think before they acted.

If history is any indication (and we all know the NHL loves to do anything with precedent in mind), this issue with Air Canada will go away fairly quietly. Teams will still get their flight discounts, the league will still put the Air Canada logo on the boards, and the Toronto Maple Leafs will continue to call the Air Canada Centre “home.” We’ve seen too many “major” incidents like this come and go with nary a resolution, and with the lack of support behind Air Canada, there’s no reason to believe this time will be any different.

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