Edmonton Oilers

It was nice to see a little humility expressed by John Karvellas, Daryl Katz’s point man for the proposed downtown arena project, today at city hall. And it was equally satisfying to see mayor Stephen Mandel and council vote 11-2 in favor of re-opening talks with the Katz Group.

Today’s events were, at the very least, better than more grandstanding, although some of that was provided by councilors Kerry Diotte and Linda Sloan, or veiled threats about the Oilers leaving town if Katz doesn’t get the rink he wants, although some observers interpreted comments by team president Patrick LaForge as that.

While nothing that transpired today constitutes a done deal, or anything close to it, agreeing to resume talks is a start and we’ll have to see if Katz takes the ball and runs with it – he’ll get his chance Jan. 23 – after a meeting that had a distinctly different feel to it than the “them” and “us” sessions of the past.

Karvellas not only announced the Katz Group is withdrawing its $6-million annual ask in the form of an operating subsidy and would put the numbers they’ve been throwing around in front of a mediator if the city would do the same, there was a lot more “ask” and a lot less “demand” in his tone.


“We are trying to be open and regain the trust we lost a few months back,” said Karvellas. “We’re not playing games with you, we’re not being sneaky. We’re trying to regain the trust that we lost. We realized coming in here today that we had a trust issue, that what we put forward was not believed.”

While I’m guessing Mandel and council, not to mention fans, would like to have heard that sentiment expressed by Katz himself rather than Karvellas, it’s a reasonable facsimile and a starting (again) point – if the sentiment translates to good faith bargaining by the Katz Group. That, we’ll have to see.

There’s a deal to be made here. The wildcard, as I see it, is the $100-million in provincial funding that’s always been factored in as part of the overall funding but that isn’t yet committed. What if it isn’t forthcoming?

If that commitment isn’t in place, the Katz Group could make great strides in putting some bite in what Karvellas said by simply proposing to council that they’ll kick in another $50 million if the city will do the same. Too much to ask?


Did we really need cut-by-cut updates via Twitter from the World Junior Camp in Calgary? I think not, but we got them name by name this afternoon. Immediate information? Absolutely. Necessary? Not so sure.

That said, the updates today weren’t nearly as much of an intrusion as the dubious made-for-TV tradition that has reporters and cameras chasing down disappointed kids after the early morning final cuts that are made before every tournament.

I enjoy the stage TSN has provided the WJC, and I understand why they want (and usually get) access to just about everything as part of their deal, but duly documenting the disappointment of bleary-eyed teenagers by sticking a lens in their face as they’re packing their bags doesn’t do a damn thing for me.


. . . It’s terrific to see the organization and teammates rallying around OKC Barons rookie defenseman Brandon Davidson, who is undergoing treatment after being diagnosed with testicular cancer.

Taylor Fedun, who has embarked on his own compelling comeback road after suffering a badly broken leg last season, Yann Danis and Dane Byers, among others, are sporting close-to-the bone haircuts in support of Davidson, 21, whose diagnosis was made public Nov. 1. Fedun’s fashion statement is here.

. . . If you’re looking for a unique Christmas present that you won’t find on any shelf in any store and the opportunity to support local charities that are helping people who really need it, consider jumping in on Jason Gregor’s Month of Giving weekdays between now and Dec. 21. If you’ve missed it until now, the link is here.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • BigE91

    I’ve been wondering since negotiations broke down in October if the Katz group wanted to put a hold on things while the lockout was just getting started? Could it be that restarting negotiations on the arena is a sign that NHL owners know a new CBA will be done soon. Other organizations have put their employees on notice of being called back to work.

  • DSF

    The missing $100 million has always been the herd of elephants in the room.

    At this point, nothing else matters.

    Neither the City nor the Katz group seems willing to address the issue.

    Everything else is just window dressing.

  • book¡e

    DSF, once the agreement is in place, the province will up infrastructure funding to the City by $127 million and the City will decide to put most of that into the arena.

      • DSF

        I don’t doubt book¡e is right. This provincial government is capable of anything.

        The biggest problem is the optics. Katz’s name is linked to election contribution scandals. Can Redford pull off gifting that much with everyone in the City knowing what it was intended for?

        I think that scandal had as much to do with the break off in negotiations as anything. The peeps involved would have known it was coming ahead of time.

        One out for Redford is to make a copious diplay of doing the same for Calgary, to prove there is no favorites, that this was a neutral decision and had nothing to do with one man’s illegal election donations.

        That is, it will still stink twice as bad.

        • if i follow your point. Then a flames owner… (murray edwards) would have to donate a pile of cash to Redford,(assuming a huge tax break) then get it back in the way of a “gift” to build a new rink in calgary.

          If redford uses Katz money to fund a rink in Calgary I would howl…… as that would be outrageously funny.

          I find the entire thing quite puzzling….. and also….. very amusing.

        • book¡e

          Not sure if election scandal is the correct phrase. One look at the donations to the Wild Rose show that about 80% of their funding came from Oil company executives and their wives, but we don’t see anyone calling this a ‘Syncrude scandal’.

      • book¡e

        No proof or evidence, but rather my own speculation based upon a few things.

        1. There were some quotes regarding this from provincial politicians some time back as a ‘possible’ approach.

        2. Katz, Mandel, and City Council are proceeding as though the money exists and I suspect that they have a similar notion of how provincial money will come through.

        3. This is how things always work, a little political shell game.

        As per the timing, the money doesn’t have to be in the mail to get shovels in the ground, there just needs to be some kind of agreement/announcement.

        • DSF

          It could well play out the way you say but I think it is far from a sure bet.

          I watched the entire proceedings at City Hall yesterday and was left with the impression that the extra $100 million was still very much in doubt.

          The Katz group was very adamant that it was the City’s responsibility to secure that funding and no one on council suggested it was a done deal.

        • This is what I’ve been hearing too. As soon as the city gets a deal it can live with they’ll have enough ammunition to announce that the missing $100M will come from MSI funding. That money is for them to use towards any infrastructure projects they choose.

          They want to minimize naysayer’s power by not publically designating those funds too early and opening themselves up to granstanding and more stall tactics by self-appointed guardians of the public purse.

  • DSF

    I can understand a reserve fund for contingencies in order to repair the facility but not to backstop or guarantee a profit for Katz. Why mediate at all. Perhaps Katz should be a tenant as he is now.

  • DSF. The Province celebrates its 100th Birthday in 2017. If you need any better excuse for the Province to dole out cash it would be for facilities like new arenas in Edmonton and Calgary.

    Because we know you live in your mothers basement let me bring you up to speed politically. The government has decided to split its “Operating” and “Infrastructure” costs into two different accounts.One is to pay everyday expenses.The other is to pay for “infrastructure” like roads(Highway 63, Hospital(CCI,Baker center),schools(MacEwan,U/A,new elementary, and secondary schools) and “other” projects(Parks,Arenas including multiplex’s,libraries>see for the greater good).

    My point DSF is that you must be old enough to grasp the political realities of life. The split in budgets was long overdue. Now the political paybacks begin from the Redford government vis a vis cash for infrastructure projects in certain areas.

    If your old enough to remember the Getty days you will understand what I am talking about.

    Thats where the money will come from.I haven’t lived in this province for over 40 years without learning a thing or three about political payback.YOu?

    • DSF

      Spare me the lecture.

      I covered Alberta politics for a living for many, many years.

      The decision to split capital and operating expenditures certainly makes a decision for the Province easier, but it hardly is a guarantee that funding for the arena will be on the front burner.

      Tying that decision to the Province’s 100th birthday, which actually occurred in 2005, is ludicrous.

      While the Province may well provide infrastructure grants to the cities, I highly doubt that will occur in time to get shovels in the ground by April.

    • book¡e

      DSF. The Province celebrates its 100th Birthday in 2017. If you need any better excuse for the Province to dole out cash it would be for facilities like new arenas in Edmonton and Calgary.


      I think they will probably use Canada’s 200th celebration in 2015 or the Oilers 50th in 2016 as a ‘date’ to target. Or, they could build it in support of Calgary and Edmonton jointly hosting the 2018 World Winter Games.

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    I agree, RB. I would much rather do WITHOUT that particular nugget of ‘behind the scenes’ action from the world junior selections.

    It’s not fair to those kids who aren’t even part of the WJC team that TSN is covering anymore. Sad sight, and I can only hope we have seen the last of those now.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    2/3rds of the teams in this league could only dream of a 16.4 million dollar operating profit. 3 price increases during a span of which they achieved 3 first overall draft selections…..when did the Leafs move west?

    It’s good to see the city put Katz in his place, beggars should be put in their place. It’s good to see he won’t be pulling any of his B/S behind close doors.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    The situation in terms of getting a deal done and provincial funding is considerably more difficult now than it was mid-summer, and most of the blame is squarely on Katz:

    1. The Seattle trip – showed Katz to be a lot less dedicated Edmonton oilers can than he and others had made himself out to be. Huge loss of good will and political capital as a result.

    2. Speaking of political capital, the single check donation made by Katz that underwrote fully 34% of the pc party’s campaign budget – made too late in the campaign to be made known to the public during that campaign – may be one of the stupidest acts in the history of Canadian politics.

    If Redford comes across with funding now it will rightly be seen as an act of influence peddling. Which is illegal by the way. Another word for it is racketeering. Redford is already viewed as having bought her leadership of the party by giving millions to the teachers union. Giving money to the arena would be as clearcut a case of influence peddling as you could find. (And both Redford AND Katz could be named in a criminal proceeding. Like I said STUPID.)

    3. The province is running a huge deficit. Giving out money for arena(s) under the guise of investing in infrastructure is going to be adding fuel to the bonfire that is the pc party’s popularity.

    4. And that deficit could get much worse as the worst bear market in natural gas ever bites even deeper into revenues and spreads to the price of oil in the next 24 months.

    5. The appointment of a third party to calculate revenues and costs could also be real trouble for Katz. Will that third party take into account how mich money Katz stands to make on the property he and others affiliated with him own in the vicinity of the proposed arena location. That would seem to be a reasonable thing to do. But to do so really would bring into question Katz need for the level of public go funds he’s asking for.

    6. Due some of the factors noted above, time is not on Katz’ side. The longer this goes on the worse the provinces and the city’s financial conditions will likely become. The third party appoitment could really drag things out.