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Canada gets it again

By Bryan Rosenbaum
Arizona Daily Wildcat
March 2, 1999
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Arizona Daily Wildcat

Bryan Rosenbaum

The Colorado Avalanche pulled off one hell of a deal Sunday, picking up Theoren Fleury and Chris Dingman from the Calgary Flames for Rene Corbet and Wade Belak. The trade showed all that is wrong with the National Hockey League - a big-market American team exploiting a small-market Canadian team.

Fleury will be a free agent once the season ends, and the Avalanche are gambling by giving up two players for a player who might only be with the team for two to three months, depending on how far the Avs advance in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Gambling? What's the gamble here? Not many people have heard of Rene Corbet and probably never will. Fleury will test the free agent waters this summer, but by then, he might already have a second Stanley Cup ring.

Back in 1989, way back when the NHL had 21 teams and hadn't even thought of putting teams in San Jose, Florida, Dallas, Phoenix, etc., the Calgary Flames won the Stanley Cup. A year later, the Edmonton Oilers, that great dynasty of the 1980's, won the Cup. After back-to-back wins by Pittsburgh and a 1993 victory by Montreal, Lord Stanley's Cup has only been hoisted by big-market teams in New York/New Jersey, Denver and Detroit.

It may be a bold statement, but the Stanley Cup might never again be won by a Canadian team. Montreal and Toronto will always have decent teams and the occasional playoff run, but how long will NHL franchises last in Edmonton and Calgary? Vancouver may have a team for a while, but its inability to hang onto Pavel Bure and ongoing management feuds have made the Canucks longshots for playoff spots, let alone Stanley Cups. Ottawa, despite having a good season this year, is losing a lot of money, and rumors of a move have been circulating recently.

Even Colorado moved in 1995 from Quebec City, and won the Stanley Cup the following year. The dividends of moving south have paid off because the Avalanche were not forced to give up their best players. Now they're paying Patrick Roy $15 million for three years, something no Canadian team could afford.

By trading away Theo Fleury, the Flames have given up hopes of making the playoffs, and have really played themselves into moving to an American city sometime in the future. The currency exchange and the lack of money in general for the Canadian teams means they cannot compete with the American teams in the free agent market, and therefore have to give up their best players to get something before they fly south for nothing, even if it means making a division rival even better.

It's a sad situation in the NHL, but that's reality in today's sporting world.