Friday, January 04, 2013

Frustration At The NHL

I am a big hockey fan.  In fact, that is the Professional sport that I like far better than anything else that is out there.  With that being the case, I have been frustrated since this lockout has begun.  The owners at the beginning were shooting for the moon in their demands and the players resented that.  Now, both sides have had their feelings hurt and are just being stupid.

I am really damn tired of the players being outraged about anything that the owners or their representatives say that might state that they believe that the players are overcompensated.  The latest:  Gary Bettman said that there are some GMs that would welcome the chance to blowup their rosters and start over.  Well, duh!  Every GM that hasn't won the Stanley Cup in the past 5 years would welcome the chance to blow up their rosters for the chance to improve them.  With the Salary Cap reportedly decreasing to $60 Million, there will be some very good players that get released. 

Let's say that the Nashville Predators have a chance to sign the Sedin Twins for $7 Million a piece for 5 year contract lengths.  Don't you think that the Predators would decide to blow up their roster to fit them in?  You bet your last dollar they would.  I am sure that Pekka Penne would be shown the door and possibly Shea Weber if that was needed to sign them.  But what I am getting at is that would be a big shakeup and roster makeover for the Predators.  That is what Bettman was getting at.  There are GMs out there that know in the past CBA that they had to be very lucky to make if not win the Stanley Cup.  So the players need to stop acting like three year old brats and just try to get a deal done.

On the other hand, the Owners are just being stubborn as well.  There needs to be way more revenue sharing.  I don't care if the idea came from the NHLPA, it is a great idea.  According to Forbes Magazine, that last bastion of liberalism (yes, sarcasm), there are three teams that make over 80% of the profit for teams in the NHL.  The Rangers, Maple Leafs, and Canadiens.  So that just begs for more revenue sharing and the cutting of costs for the teams.  So the owners have asked the players, which is the biggest cost factor for the teams, to cut costs.  That is necessary.  57% of hockey revenue is ludicrous.  50/50 is where it should be.  But the owners should also have increased revenue sharing.  Yes, it goes against all tenants of capitalism.  Yes, the league should realize that having a team in Phoenix will never be a profitable as having one in Seattle, but we are where we are.  So how about opening all books from each and every team starting in 2014.  Let's say that the Salary Cap in 2014 is still at $60 Million.  Take that amount, $60 Million and allow that for deductible expenses for team expenses.  Allow for teams to have a $20 Million profit for the year.  That is $140 Million in revenue for each club.  That is ticket sales, merchandise sales, TV contracts, and other revenue that just the hockey team gets.  That would mean that the corporations that own teams and rinks and media stations would have to decide where the revenue comes from.  Of course there would be a Salary Floor.  $50 Million would be the floor and the team would only get a $50 Million deductible expenses write off for revenue sharing.  The amount that you spend on player salaries is the amount you get in deductible expenses for revenue sharing.  All money that comes into the revenue sharing pool would be divided 30 ways and each team getting their share.  No more, no less.  That is what the owners should get done.  But that won't happen.

The realignment of Divisions/Conferences should not be able to be stopped by the players.  After all, they don't take any financial risk of operating the NHL.  If the owners and GMs decide that there will be 4 conferences of 8 teams each, great.  If they decide there will be 10 conferences, 5 that have 4 teams and 5 that have 2 teams, great.  The players need to shut the hell up and allow the people that run the league to try and make it better.  There will never be equality in travel for the Western teams.  That is just the way that the world is.  But I believe that the owners and the league need to have the ability to do what is best for the league.  If that means that Columbus goes to the East and that Minnesota is added to the Central, then by God let's get the job done.  The players need to play and not decide that they are GMs and Owners.

Another thing that has frustrated me is the whining of the players about the contracts that the owners want to get out of.  I understand the sentiment that a contract is a contract and you need to abide by the terms of that contract.  But let's get something straight.  I feel no sympathy for the hypocritical players.  When is the last time that the NHLPA has went to a player and said, "You signed the contract.  You will report for training camp and abide by the contract that you signed with your free will."?  That never has happened and it never will.  So with the players whining and crying that they just want to play for the contracts that they have signed, I call them big fat hypocrites.  After the new CBA is signed, I bet that in the 2013-14 NHL Year, there will be a player that holds his services from the team that he has signed a contract with and says that he wants to be traded, wants a new contract, wants a say in what is happening in the organization, or something else where he decides he doesn't want to abide by the terms of the contract that he signed.  I want to see the Board of the NHLPA to come out and say that the player needs to play based upon the contract that he signed.  You and I know that it won't happen.  Why?  Because the players are just greedy and don't want to stand up for the principles that they say they have.

Finally, I believe that the league needs to expand by 2 teams and relocate teams.  Yes, I said that.  The Islanders need to get out of New York.  The Coyotes need to leave the Desert.  I would move the Panthers out of Florida.  If the Stars can't make a go of it, let them leave Dallas.  Put the Islanders in Seattle.  The Coyotes move to Portland.  Move the Panthers to Saskatoon.  Expansion teams in Hamilton, Ontario and Quebec City.  If the Stars have to move, put them in Kansas City, Cleveland, or figure out another city that can support the team.  But to strengthen the league, we need to have teams that average 16,000 people per game. 

In 2011-2012, these teams had an average attendance under 16,000 people:
Colorado Avalanche  15,499   2010-11    2009-10
New Jersey Devils  15,397   2010-11    2009-10
Winnipeg Jets  15,004    2010-11    2009-10
Anaheim Ducks  14,760    2010-11    2009-10
Columbus Blue Jackets  14,660    2010-11    2009-10
Dallas Stars   14,227   2010-11
New York Islanders  13,191  2010-11    2009-10
Phoenix Coyotes   12,421   2010-11    2009-10

Florida Panthers   2010-11    2009-10
Nashville Panthers     2009-10
Carolina Hurricanes    2009-10
Tampa Bay Lightning    2009-10

The Teams listed have years behind their names.  Those years, those teams had an average attendance under 16,000 people.  There are 7 teams in the NHL that over the past 3 years have not averaged 16,000 people in the stands at their games for any of those years.  The league and other owners need to help these teams get over that 16,000 person threshold.  That helps strengthen the league and also brings in more revenue. 

The league is a great league that will take a PR hit for this lockout.  Both the players and the management deserve ridicule for the hit that is coming.  And the more that both sides decide to be assholes, the more that this game will not be able to fulfill the potential to grow and become the favorite sport of North Americans.  And yes, I am including Canadians in that statement.  Curling?  Really, now.


Anonymous said...

The NHL needs two more teams like they need another hole in their brain. I looked at the player ratings in my Strat-O-Matic game rosters from last season, 1982 and even 1972 and it's amazing how diluted the NHL has become. Half the teams can't field a checking line anymore for the simple reason most third-line players can't play both ends of the rink like they could in a 21-team NHL.

Zebster said...

Brent, that was very well written and I agree in very large part. Great, great rant. This blog needs a few more like that. I just want to be able to watch the Bruins play again

Brent said...

The dilution of talent starts in Juniors and pee wee hockey. We get everything specialized and that stunts the growth of the overall player. That and the rules that have kept hockey from being that free-wheeling game that we grew up loving.

And I would still expand the league by two teams. Expand into non-traditional markets. By that, I mean markets that are hockey crazy, but not places that you think right off the top of your head as cities that have pro sports teams. Saskatoon would be one of those.

Hamilton, Kitchener, London, St. Catharines-Niagara, Halifax, and Victoria all have populations of over 300,000 people in Canada. Same size as Tampa, Anaheim, Raleigh, St Louis, and Miami. The difference? The cities up in Canada would be willing to support the NHL unlike those teams that cannot get fans through the turnstyles.

London, Kitchener or Hamilton would be that second club in the Toronto area. They would have a natural rivalry with Detroit as well.

Victoria would have to be that Northwest Division with Vancouver, Seattle and Portland. 4 teams within 400 miles of each other.

St. Catharanes-Niagara is too close to Buffalo, although it has a larger population than Buffalo.

Halifax in Nova Scotia has almost 400,000 people. Think that should be considered for relocating franchises.

There are cities out there that could support an NHL franchise, most of them are in Canada. I would love to see more of those cities be thought of a possible landing spots for struggling teams.