By Wendy Gillis, Toronot Star, March 10, 2011
The NHL could lose a key sponsor if it doesn’t immediately act on violent headshots during games, Canadian news agency QMI is reporting.
The report comes in the wake of a controversial hit that sent Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty to hospital with a severe concussion Tuesday night.
According to QMI, Air Canada — one of the league’s biggest corporate backers — is threatening to pull its support if action isn’t taken to prevent what it calls recent career- and life-threatening headshots during games.
Denis Vandal, the airline’s director of marketing/communication, wrote a “strongly worded letter” addressed to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, saying “from a corporate social responsibility standpoint, it is becoming increasingly difficult to associate our 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-threatening injuries, Air Canada will withdraw its sponsorship of hockey.”
Vandal wrote that the airline is “very concerned with the state of hockey today,” and is having difficulty rationalizing its sponsorship “unless the NHL takes responsibility to protect both the players and the integrity of the game,” according to QMI.
And where are the beer companies, and the auto companies and the rest of the battery of giant corporate sponsors...are they still sleeping?
The fact that the NHL refused to impose supplementary discipline on Zdeno Chara for his hit on Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadians, earlier this week, is an open admission that the league is not interested in disciplining itself.
The NHL is a very transparent, frequently on display, form of entertainment, with some 30 teams playing approximately 80 games each, every season, plus play-offs. That makes for a lot of activity, and if the kind of activity includes the potentially career-ending and potentially life-ending injuries, as we have seen this season in greater numbers, then normal, compassionate and responsibile people and organizations are going to withdraw their support.