Yashin backs out on $1-million pledge

The fallout from the withdrawal of a big donation is turning into a public relations nightmare for the National Arts Centre.

Ottawa Senators hockey star Alexei Yashin has confirmed he is withdrawing his pledge of a $1-million contribution to the National Arts Centre. Yashin contributed $200,000 last March, with a promise of $800,000 more to come in the next four years.

On Tuesday the National Arts Centre and the Ottawa Senators were getting ready for a big joint fundraiser to be held at the Corel Centre.

Nicknamed 'Pucks and Tux' it would feature the musicians of the NAC Orchestra conducted by Pinchas Zukerman, with special guest Senators Captain Alexi Yashin. Now the event is the first casuality of Yashin's decision to stop payment on his $1-million pledge to the NAC.

No one except Yashin can say why he pulled out the money and he's not saying so far. His written explanation claims personal reasons. But that doesn't stop speculation that somehow the National Arts Centre has mishandled the goose that laid the golden egg.

Last March when the Russian hockey player pledged the money, in a highly publicized press conference, he said he hoped to see more performers from his homeland on the stage of the NAC. The centre's upcoming calendar doesn't boast any Russian names.

Further speculation surrounds the departure of John Cripton. The former CEO was pushed out by the NAC board last year. Cripton had strong ties with Russia, and was responsible for bringing Russia's Kirov Ballet to Canada.

The NAC has refused discuss the Yashin affair.

Whatever happens, the prediction from marketers is that if Yashin continues to skate well and win for the home team, all will be forgiven and forgotten. It's the National Arts Centre that will have failed to score.