WINNIPEG - A lot of people lost their minds the other day when it was announced that True North Sports and Entertainment entered into a new naming agreement with Canada Life and the downtown rink would be renamed Canada Life Centre. When the rink was originally opened in 2004, MTS bought the naming rights, hence the name MTS Centre was born, and once MTS was absorbed by Bell, it became Bell MTS Place (as there was another Bell Centre in Montreal). The level of outrage and confusion on social media was astounding.
Sure, we all long for the simpler days; days when there weren’t ads on the boards and ice, no advertising on players helmets, and when places had grand names like Maple Leaf Gardens, Montreal Forum, and the Winnipeg Arena (well, that one was kind of boring). Places never changed their names in the old days. Locally, we saw the start of places being renamed in 2001 when our own Winnipeg Stadium became Canad Inn Stadium after the Winnipeg Football Club cut a naming rights deal with the local hotel chain.
Even with the second name change of our hockey rink, we have got off relatively easy. For instance, take Hard Rock Stadium in Miami; the facility opened in 1987 as Joe Robbie Stadium and has been known by a number of names since: "Pro Player Park", "Pro Player Stadium", "Dolphins Stadium", "Dolphin Stadium", "Land Shark Stadium", and "Sun Life Stadium". In August 2016, the team sold the naming rights to Hard Rock Cafe Inc. for $250 million over 18 years so there may be some stability. Minute Maid Park in Houston was previously named The Ballpark at Union Station, Enron Field, and Astros Field. Yes, Enron Field. Closer to home, Ottawa’s Canadian Tire Centre opened in January 1996 as The Palladium and was also known as Corel Centre from 1996 to 2006 and Scotiabank Place from 2006 to 2013. Kind of confusing? Car manufacturer Toyota has naming rights on a combination of eight sports facilities in the United States.
It's a different world out there. Player’s salaries and associated costs in running a sports franchise are astronomical. Companies want to have their names associated with teams. It’s a perfect match. Even with significant television and streaming revenue, sponsorship is needed and helps keep ticket prices low…if you consider the price of an average NHL ticket of just under $100 “low”.
If you think of these places - Dunkin' Donuts Center, Smoothie King Center, Little Caesars Arena, Jimmy John's Field, and Dr. Pepper Ballpark, Canada Life Centre has a nice ring to it.
Calm down people.