City to vote on hockey watching travel expenses

Councillor Ranj Pillai believes Whitehorse is the best city in the country to host the 2011 Hockey Day in Canada event. And he wants the city to back his hunch with $2,500.

Councillor Ranj Pillai believes Whitehorse is the best city in the country to host the 2011 Hockey Day in Canada event.

And he wants the city to back his hunch with $2,500.

Monday, councillors will decide whether Pillai will get $2,500 to fly to Stratford, Ontario, at the end of January.

Stratford is where the CBC is hosting this year’s Hockey Day in Canada, a week-long celebration that brings in NHL stars and tourists from across Canada.

Pillai needs to scope out this year’s event before he can put together a compelling sales pitch for Whitehorse, he said.

But Pillai’s ties to the hockey community, as the owner of the Hockey Summit School and as a player in the Oldtimer Hockey League, have made some people question whether the trip is motivated out of self-interest.

“Some people think that I may just be going out there to enjoy myself for a week,” said Pillai. “But arguably I have the expertise needed.”

He cites 15 years of event-management experience and his intimate knowledge of the Whitehorse hockey community as reasons why taxpayers should foot his travel bill to Stratford.

He also explains every politician is given about $3,500 each year to spend on travel.

The money wouldn’t be an additional cost for the city, he said.

And winning the Hockey Day in Canada proposal would mean added tourist dollars and low-cost promotion for the city. It would also boost minor hockey in Whitehorse, a sport that is quickly growing, Pillai points out.

Last year, CBC approached Whitehorse city council about putting forward a proposal.

But that offer wasn’t taken seriously last year, something he wants to change, said Pillai.

If Pillai travels to Stratford, he’ll be joined for two of the seven days by two representatives from Outside the Cube consulting, a Whitehorse business that focuses on sport marketing. The consultants are paying their own way.

Stratford spent $15,000 to host this year’s event. The city also raised $100,000 beyond what is provided by the CBC to host additional events and banquets.

If Whitehorse won the bid, it would do as much for the city as the Canada Games did, at a much lower cost, said Pillai.

Even councillor Doug Graham, who has long been critical of the expensive legacy left behind by the Games, favours bringing Hockey Day in Canada to Whitehorse.

“It would be a great advertisement for the city,” he said.

“We may be on the hook for a few couple hundred bucks here and there, but it’s mostly staff time.”

According to Joel Darling, CBC Sports director of production, Whitehorse, as a small northern town, has a good chance of winning.

“We have a desire to go North and there’s good infrastructure for the event already set up in Whitehorse,” he said.

In the past 10 years, towns like Winkler, Manitoba, and Nelson, BC, have been chosen to host.

Last year approximately 12 cities vied for the title.

Darling has no definitive answer on how many cities are vying for 2011, but Yellowknife has popped up as Whitehorse’s biggest competitor.

Contact Vivian Belik at vivianb@yukon-news.com