Huawei did they go? That was the question on Saturday as Hockey Night In Canada hit the airwaves.
The financial world has been roiling since Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, was arrested by Canadian officials in Vancouver on Dec. 1. She faces extradition to the United States, where she is accused of helping Huawei circumvent U.S. sanctions on Iran. She is also the daughter of Huawei’s founder, Ren Zhengfei, and China has loudly protested her arrest.
Huawei, the China-based telecommunications giant, is also a major sponsor of HNIC with the company’s logo ubiquitous on the set of their panels.
The investment by the controversial Chinese communications company was considered a significant sale for Rogers at the time, as they try to pay off their onerous National Hockey League television and digital rights deal.
So with Meng arrested in Canada for the Americans, inquiring minds wanted to know: would Rogers put the toxic sponsor on hold? With some Canadians returning Huawei phones over spying allegations, how long can Rogers align with the company?
The Huawei logo remained prominent on the HNIC set during the weekend. Clearly, the lifeblood that Huawei represents is still too valuable for HNIC to cancel its contract.
And perhaps the charges, inspired by U.S. President Donald Trump’s trade war with China, will disappear shortly.
But if the court case carries on and extradition occurs, it will be interesting to see how long Rogers stays loyal to a brand that could turn toxic.
If Auston Matthews is disturbed about not having a new contract in Toronto, he has a funny way of showing it.
The Toronto Maple Leafs star is due to become a restricted free agent in the summer unless he and the Maple Leafs can come up with a deal. Anyone can offer him the max deal after July 1, 2019, and there’s little doubt a bunch of teams would pile on.
But since coming back from an injury, Matthews has been scorching with six goals and four assists in his last five games. His overtime winner against Buffalo was a thing of beauty, capping a three-point night.
It remains a virtual certainty that the Leafs will get him under contract, though the process will be a little different from what transpired with Toronto’s recent RFA, William Nylander. General manager Kyle Dubas was happy to let Nylander dangle until December. There will be no such gamesmanship with the 21-year-old Matthews, who has 26 points in 16 games.
Certainly Matthews will be the centrepiece of any anticipated Stanley Cup run this spring for the Leafs, who’ve gone without a championship since the Hellenic Vespers in 88 BC. HNIC is no doubt drooling at the notion they might get the first Canadian Cup winner since Montreal 1993.
For the Leaf-obsessed, however, it might be shocking to discover that they’re not the likeliest Canadian team in the Bring It On Home sweepstakes. Late in the night on Saturday, the Calgary Flames won a showdown with the Nashville Predators, taking over first place in the Western Conference.
To say the Flames were not the people’s choice to lead the Canadian contingent at this point in the season would be an understatement. Their 2017-18 season fell apart down the stretch, with the club missing the postseason. It seemed that, like their Alberta cousins the Edmonton Oilers, the Flames were built for mediocrity.
But general manager Brad Treliving swung a few deals this summer, bringing in Noah Hanifin, James Neal and Elias Lindholm to change the chemistry (although Neal has been a disappointment). In addition, players who’d been seasoned in the Flames’ minor-league system have come to the big club in specific roles.
After some rocky results earlier in the year (a 9-1 drubbing at home by Pittsburgh), the Flames have found their equilibrium, going 9-2 since the middle of November. While they’ve had some injury issues (centre Mikael Backlund is out with a concussion), the team hasn’t let it get in the way.
On Saturday, rookie Oliver Kylington scored a goal and an assist in the showdown with the Preds.
While there’s a long way to go, Calgary looks like the real deal.
That’s sad news for their Alberta counterparts in Edmonton. The Oilers under superstar Connor McDavid have long been anticipated as the Next Great Thing. Like Lucy offering the football to Charlie Brown, the hockey world has been fooled by Edmonton year after year. The latest whoops moment resulted in Ken Hitchcock taking over as head coach.
But even after defeating the Flames on Sunday, the Oilers are out of a playoff spot, looking up at the Flames. Calgary in the Stanley Cup Finals might be enough to cause Oilers fans to head for the High Level Bridge.
Troy Media columnist Bruce Dowbiggin career includes successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada’s top television sports broadcaster, he is also the publisher of Not The Public Broadcaster.