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Sports & Recreation Hockey

Power Play

Professional Hockey and the Politics of Urban Development

by (author) Jay Scherer, David Mills & Linda Sloan McCulloch

foreword by Richard Gruneau

The University of Alberta Press
Initial publish date
Oct 2019
Hockey, City Planning & Urban Development, Economic Development
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2019
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Nov 2019
    List Price

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When the Rogers Place arena opened in downtown Edmonton in September 2016, no amount of buzz could drown out the rumours of manipulation, secret deals, and corporate greed undergirding the project. Working with documentary evidence and original interviews, the authors present an absorbing account of the machinations that got the arena and the adjacent Ice District built, with a price tag of more than $600 million. The arena deal, they argue, established a costly public financing precedent that people across North America should watch closely, as many cities consider building sports facilities for professional teams or international competitions. Their analysis brings clarity and nuance to a case shrouded in secrecy and understood by few besides political and business insiders. Power Play tells a dramatic story about clashing priorities where sports, money, and municipal power meet.

About the authors

Jay Scherer is Professor of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation at the University of Alberta.

Jay Scherer's profile page

David Mills is a retired Professor of Canadian history from the University of Alberta.

David Mills' profile page

Linda Sloan McCulloch was elected and served on Edmonton City Council from 2004 to 2013.

Linda Sloan McCulloch's profile page

Richard Gruneau is a Professor in the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University. In addition to co-authoring Hockey Night in Canada, he is the author of Class, Sports, and Social Development (University of Massachusetts Press, 1983).

Richard Gruneau's profile page


  • Winner, Trade Non-Fiction Book of the Year | Alberta Book Awards, Book Publishers Association of Alberta
  • Short-listed, Scholarly and Academic Book of the Year | Alberta Book Awards, Book Publishers Association of Alberta

Editorial Reviews

# 9 on Edmonton's Bestselling Books list; Non-fiction, December 15, 2019

# 2 on Edmonton's Bestselling Books list; Non-fiction, February 02, 2020

Edmonton's Bestselling Books

"Ultimately, Power Play asserts that the city was the biggest loser when it came to building the arena. The city financed a majority of the new arena at an enormous cost.... While it agrees the arena has made positive contributions to Edmonton, it cautions future cities and arena developments to think critically about spending public dollars on private ventures."

Adam Lachacz

# 7 on Edmonton's Bestselling Books list; Non-fiction, December 01, 2019

# 8 on Edmonton's Bestselling Books list; Non-fiction, January 5, 2020

# 8 on Glass Bookshop's Top 10 list, November 18, 2019

# 10 on Edmonton's Bestselling Books list; Non-fiction, February 09, 2020

Edmonton's Bestselling Books

"[The arena deal] was viewed by some as a catalyst for invigorating Edmonton’s downtown core and a way to lock in the city’s storied Oilers franchise. Others argued it was a gift to a billionaire businessman and the presumed result of backroom deals and public threats to move the team. Now, a new book sheds light on how Edmonton City Council reached the arena deal."

Jennifer Crosby

# 3 on Edmonton Non-Fiction Bestsellers list, November 10, 2019

Edmonton Non-Fiction Bestsellers

"Readers interested in the business of sport will enjoy Power Play. But this book is really about how municipal politics can be hijacked. Themes of democracy, transparency and public participation in municipal politics run throughout the book.... Power Play shows what can happen when local politics becomes enmeshed with local and international business interests." [Full review at]

Ryan Gauthier

“The book adds significantly to literatures on the economics of sport, municipal government, and urban development by providing a detailed case study of the process and politics of sports facility construction, grounded in the distinct history and sporting experiences of a particular North American city…. Power Play provides a template for investigating and analyzing the political and economic issues that will be faced in the next decade or two by every North American city with a major professional sports franchise seeking public subsidies…. Power Play should go straight to the top of the reading list of anyone interested in the range of important issues illuminated by this carefully assembled and thought-provoking case study.” Stacy L. Lorenz, American Review of Canadian Studies, 51:4 [Full review at]

# 2 on Edmonton Non-Fiction Bestsellers list, November 03, 2019

Edmonton Non-Fiction Bestsellers

Ten of the year's best books by local authors to look out for. Many sports fans may not be aware of the true costs behind one of Canada’s most beloved sports. Diving into the politics behind the Rogers Place deal, this book illuminates the facts previously shrouded in secrecy around the manipulation and machination that got the $600-million arena built.

Edmonton Journal

"In Power Play, Jay Scherer, David Mills and Linda Sloan McCulloch not only clear the fog, they situate the whole ordeal as only the latest example of a long pattern of North American pro sports teams coercing public subsidies for new facilities.... No amount of massaging the messaging or shiny renderings will cover up the most fundamental divide in these debates: whether scarce public resources should be spent building something that will generate private profit, and which many citizens cannot reap the benefits of."

The Sprawl

"Power Play: Professional Hockey and the Politics of Urban Development is an absolute masterpiece of civic journalism."

Fish Griwkowsky

"...a lot of things that a lot of political parties and governments do should be examined carefully. One informative way to look at them is to read the newly published Power Play. The book examines events leading to the City of Edmonton’s decision to provide most of the funding for the Edmonton Oilers’ new arena.... The book’s real value lies in detailed recounting of how a big political battle was fought. Proponents of the arena deal were operating on articles of faith.... The book outlines constant appeals to conventional wisdom. It implicitly raises the question of whether politicians act on a strong information base in such cases, or whether they make decisions on gut instinct and a strong pull toward going along with a crowd."

Mark Lisac

"University of Alberta kinesiology professor Jay Scherer is one of the authors of the upcoming book Power Play: Professional Hockey and the Politics of Urban Development — a deep dive into Edmonton’s arena deal... 'Any time a city does a new deal, it does set a very powerful precedent that the city with the next-oldest arena is invited to meet, if not exceed, in terms of subsidy,' Scherer said."

Madeline Smith, Toronto Star, 07/31/2019

# 7 on Edmonton Non-Fiction Bestsellers list, November 24, 2019

Edmonton Non-Fiction Bestsellers

# 5 on Edmonton's Bestselling Books list; Non-fiction, March 08, 2020

Edmonton's Bestselling Books

# 8 on Edmonton's Bestselling Books list; Non-fiction, December 08, 2019

"Power Play is easy to understand, with a clear message: cities set to negotiate with professional sports teams must be aware there is a carefully-crafted playbook designed to attract maximum public dollars for sports facilities..."

Liane Faulder

"Power Play delves into the dark world of billionaire club owners, weak mayors and unconscionable subsidies that litter the world of professional sports. The names and dollar values change, but these grinding sagas are all the same: One false move and the dummy gets it. Pay up or you lose the team. So, taxpayers pay and pay".

Blacklock's Reporter

"Power Play is a book that needs to be out there, for the politicians, the protesters, the civic activists, the journalists, even the fans to read before the next power play by some rich owner, like, say Calgary or Ottawa.... As a reader, there's plenty to take away from Power Play, from the deep respect of all the research for the book to befuddlement at how public funds continue to fund rich people's toys." [Full review at]

Greg Oliver, Society for International Hockey Research

# 1 on Edmonton Non-Fiction Bestsellers list, October 27, 2019

Edmonton Non-Fiction Bestsellers

# 8 on Glass Bookshop's Top 10 list, November 11, 2019

Other titles by David Mills

Other titles by Richard Gruneau