The actors are gamely delivering their lines in another revival of the world's most shopworn drama.
There's Calgary Flames CEO Ken King informing his city, in sorrow more than anger, that the club will shelve plans for building a new arena and "figure out what the future will look like at some point later."
Standing nearby is NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, striking a familiar passive-aggressive pose used when seeking a handout: "They're going to hang on as long as they can. At least, that's the current view."
The implication: Nice little hockey town you've got there; be a shame if anything happened to it. This endlessly repeated script needs a re-write. It's as predictable as it is implausible.
Talks to replace the 34-year-old Saddledome have stalled even though, as The Globe and Mail reported, the city is considering kicking in financing for a third of the $500 million cost of redeveloping a new rink.
Why should taxpayers do that? If the Flames' owners, six of Canada's wealthiest people, want a new arena they can pay for it.
As usual, the NHL cartel and its apologists are counting on Calgarians' succumbing to a wave of me-too feelings when they gaze at taxpayer-funded arenas elsewhere. But using past bad decisions to justify terrible future decisions does not qualify as logic. And governments in cash-strapped Alberta can't afford to capitulate.
Arena financing is a hamster wheel, and here is an opportunity to jump off. No one seriously believes the Flames are leaving, despite occasional loose talk from club officials.
But if the price for keeping them is a giveaway on the scale of what Edmonton and Quebec City recently allowed themselves to be talked into providing, hire the moving vans.
Apropos of nothing and entirely coincidentally, there's a municipal election in Calgary next month. Everyone involved should take note of a remark this week by Neil deMause, renowned stadium boondoggle vivisectionist and creator of the fieldofschemes.com website: "The number of mayors who've been voted out of office for standing up to sports team subsidy demands remains zero."