Saturday, December 31, 2005

Rose coloured glasses

It has some pretty pictures sometimes, and its not a bad bathroom read, but I kind of regret my late-night online purchase of a Hockey News subscription. Normally, I feel like I don't quite know what's really going on behind the scenes with NHL labour/CBA news, but from reading THN I just feel plain dumb. Reading THN, you'd think the NHL is healthier than ever, with increased revenue, great new rules and soaring attendance in the league overall (this rosey picture is epitomized by a triumphant Gary Bettman and his lawyer thug Bill Daly on the cover of this week's issue...GUH).

Ruining it all, I sometimes run across actual journalism, notably
Larry Brooks in the NY Post (good sports coverage, but I also love their Page 6 gossip column about celebrity canoodlers). Writing about the new CBA Brooks makes a few points: revenues and the salary cap will go up because the league was lowballing revenue, something the NHLPA accused them of doing all along. Revenue from things like cable deals, lease agreements was neatly moved around for things like the Levitt Report, back when the league was trying to win fan support for a lockout. That doesn't mean the league was rolling in it or anything, especially without a TV deal; but let's not be naive and assume a lockout for a year helped the NHL in anyway, especially when they brag about how great everything is.

Meanwhile, the league's been boasting about ticket sales that simply aren't there. Brooks points out that most teams give tickets away, often in the thousands (like 2,700 a night in Boston and Dallas), which only buffers the point about the league's claims to revenue.

So in the end the league is worse off and the cap goes up anyway. Sorry about that, small-market teams (as if that was ever about you in first place). If it was really about small markets, a meaningful revenue sharing program between the owners would have fixed the problem, sans lockout. Then again, I'm one of seven Oilers fans who thinks the players shouldn't be villians for wanting what their worth in something that reasonably resembles a free market, so there you go.

Would the NHL still have an ESPN if they hadn't killed a year of hockey? Maybe. Was tanking a season and losing fans in fragile US markets worth it? Not at all.


mudcrutch79 said...

Apparently, in the interest of good taste,they cropped the picture so that you can't see that Bill Daly has Goodenow's head in his hands and that Bettman is standing on Goodenow's corpse.

Brave move outing yourself as a player supporter Mike. It seems that the only Oiler fans willing to do so live several thousand km away in Toronto.

mike w said...

>It seems that the only Oiler fans willing to do so live several thousand km away in Toronto

It's true. In fact, I was politely asked to leave.

Colby Cosh said...

I'm with you on most of these points (despite living at Ground Zero), and since I got a THN sub for Christmas I'll add that the soft newsprint allows it to serve potential double duty in the crapper.

I'm not shedding any tears for the ESPN deal, though. Fine, OLN reaches fewer homes and isn't as competent yet in broadcasting the game. At least it has some interest in marketing hockey and partnering with the league. With hockey in-house, it was strictly up to ESPN whether it wanted to treat the game with the respect it confers upon, say, women's college basketball. The current situation, under which ESPN will lose the hockey fan outright if it doesn't cover the game as news, seems somehow healthier even if there's some lost revenue up front.

Anonymous said...

I watch ESPN all the time, and I must say it leaves a lot to be desired. You won`t hear me bad mouth TSN or SportsNet again, unless Dutch stops caking on the pancake foundation and eyeliner(aaaccckk, he`s hideous!) At least OLN has shown some desire to put the games on the internets.

Sweet gentle Mike, I have to take (a little) issue with your comment about a free market. The NHL has nothing resembling a free market, especially with a collective agreement numbering over 1000 pages. The very fact that it is a highly regulated market is what guarantees the still exorbinate salaries of our hockey heroes. If it was a true free market, where players auctioned their services to the highest bidder with no restrictions and things like arbitration, salaries would be a tenth of what they are.

Or maybe not.


mike w said...

>The very fact that it is a highly regulated market

I know, that's why I put "reasonably resembling a free market" as a qualifier. It's not a free market. Players give up a lot in letting teams simply own their rights for 7 years and let teams trade them to other cities, at any time, without their consent. That's why the cap seemed more like a muscle move on the union rather than an actual solution to the NHL's problems. I'm sure we agree on one thing about the cap: a free market, it ain't.

Anonymous said...

"I'm sure we agree on one thing about the cap: a free market, it ain't."

True, true.