The John Molson School of Business held their second annual DSA Sport Business Conference at the Delta Hotel March 18 to 19, and some of the big shakers in Montreal’s sports business industry had their say on a number of issues Montrealers are worried about.
Not far from anyone’s mind was the current NHL lockout, and speaking on behalf of the Canadiens was Julien Brisebois, the director of Hockey Operations. “The best days of the NHL are ahead of us,” he told the audience, “the problem is we did not sell the great game of hockey.” His proposals for fixing the game of hockey even had the crowd divided, including a ban on fights. Brisebois talked about three objectives to make the game better: an increase in scoring chances, more continuance of play, and to prove that gratuitous violence is not prevalent in the game. He also called for the league to bring in shootouts. “It’s a no-brainer,” he said, citing his dislike of ties.
The vice-president of marketing and communications for the Molson Indy Montreal, Stephane Boudreau, said the future of sports is about corporate sponsors. He also commented on the rise of NASCAR and the decline in open-wheel racing in the United States, “NASCAR listened to their fans,” he said. He also commented on a potential power shift in Formula One, “If Bernie Ecclestone keeps power (of F1), the Montreal race could be in danger. There are places in Asia willing to spend $50 million for a race, and 400 (million) for a new track.” Comparatively, he said the city of Montreal refused to make some necessary repairs to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
Local boxing promoter Yvon Michel also spoke about the rise in popularity of boxing in this city. He talked about the promotion of local athletes such as Eric Lucas, who was fighting that night to a sellout crowd at the Bell Centre. Michel said that boxing is “about the people,” citing Otis Grant’s miraculous comeback from a car wreck. “Demand for boxing is bigger than ever,” he said, saying he plans on expanding to the United States.
Global television reporter Paul Graif also spoke about the ever-changing face of professional sports. He too agreed with Boudreau’s assessment that corporate sponsorship has changed sports. “Sports is no longer just for the fun of it,” Graif said.
Friday’s moderator, lecturer Bruno Delmore said, “If I could describe this panel with one word, it would be diversity.” A topic that all four panellists agreed on was the demise of the Expos. “The city of Montreal is going to miss the Expos,” Brisebois said, saying the city should have done more to get a downtown park built. The nearly-lost FINA World Aquatic Championships was also an issue, with Brisebois and Boudreau saying it would have been a disaster to lose the games.
The conference also featured a discussion of amateur sports on Saturday, as well as dinners with keynote speakers Michael Farber (Sports Illustrated) and Ray Lalonde (Montreal Canadiens).