What would Tampa Bay’s future look like without a salary cap?

We’ve all customized our Twitter feeds by this point to our own tastes, though that’s not necessarily a good thing. As a left-leaning hockey fan who likes cats, I get a lot of left-leaning news, tons of hockey information and opinion, and cat pics. This does not make me a more well-rounded person, but it does satisfy my need to see pictures of cats who think they’re people.

What it’s also done, is aggregate a news feed in which I get the impression that everyone feels as I do – “man, everyone totally agrees with me on this!” – is something I probably think way too often.  In the case of the NHL lockout, I strongly get the impression that everyone – my Twitter everyone, of course – is in favour of the NHLPA decertifying and letting the “free market” dictate what it will. (I suppose the free market concept is not entirely left-leaning, so maybe my feed isn’t all that one-sided.) Oddly, on this particular topic, I feel differently.

This week the players that make up the NHLPA are holding a vote to decide whether they should give the PA’s executive board the power to decertify (or more accurately, file a disclaimer of interest). If they get two-thirds of the vote in favour, it could conceivably strengthen the players’ hand in a potential court battle, where a judge could ultimately rule the lockout and all player restrictions null and void, which would trigger mass chaos league-wide. The NHL has even argued that existing player contracts would be torn up in this scenario.

No salary cap, no CBA, no draft, just a complete clusterfuck that would allow the richest teams to sign the best players to the most money, and bury the poor teams that wouldn’t be able to financially compete. They’d fold like cheap tents.

A decent portion of the league (no exact figure of course. Two teams? Six? Ten?) could find themselves six feet under if this mass chaos were to ensue, yet from what I’ve seen, folks still seem eager to prune the NHL’s branches, assuming things will grow back healthier and generally better.

It’s a flowery concept, but I don’t want to see contraction happen. I don’t want mass chaos where all your team’s favourite players are suddenly uprooted and belong to the Rangers and Leafs. I don’t argue that less teams = stronger talent level = better hockey (by how much we don’t really know). I just don’t want it.

Before I get further into why, here’s a chunk of an excellent article written by Cam Cole of the Vancouver Sun on how a PA disclaimer of interest would result in chaos (and why the league never had any innocence left to lose). After contemplating what would happen if the union dissolved and contracts were voided:

But what glorious chaos it would be.

It won’t happen, of course, because the two sides in the ongoing labour war would never give the media a gift so sensational.

Still, think of the stories: A frantic orgy of free-agent madness, rich teams stockpiling talent with no salary caps, mid-market teams scrambling to keep some semblance of what they have, deep-pocketed competitive failures seeing a chance to hit a sudden home run, a few other franchises utterly driven out of business … the competition and carnage would be more interesting than a lot of NHL playoff series.

The league would definitely lose some teams, which admittedly makes it worth fantasizing about.

Interesting, I mean, shit yes. Worth fantasizing about, no doubt. But better for hockey fans? Not for me, anyway.

For my money, hockey fans have become too caught up in the finances of their teams. The salary cap forced us into that, admittedly, because we like to know if our team has the money to sign another player. But it really shouldn’t be our problem.

Fans who want the Coyotes to go down in a desert wildfire make you wonder – why not let the league and ownership worry about the business side of hockey and just enjoy their team? Do you worry about the finances of In-N-Out Burger when eating a double-double animal style (I’m hungry)? That stuff shouldn’t mean shit to us. The ‘Yotes put a great product on the ice last year, and played admirably despite often being out-matched talent-wise. They defended well, got great coaching and fantastic goaltending. They finished third in the Western Conference and won the division. They were a fun surprising story. A hockey story. And fans want them torched because their not impressed with their books. …Que?

Another obvious negative is that contraction would affect a huge number of hockey fans personally. Hearing co-workers list off the teams they’d like to see disappear in a puff of smoke leaves a half-dozen fanbases unable to watch NHL hockey live. It’s romantic to think all Atlanta Thrashers fans still follow the game, but we know better than that. You take a fan’s team, and the NHL suddenly has less people to market to, to sell to, to include. They go away, and we dig deeper into the “niché” hole that some of us find frustrating.

As a hockey player, there’s also the simple fact that less teams equals less jobs, so I’d feel for up-and-comers in that regard.

The main argument for contraction, then, is that the hockey would be better with 24 (or whatever) teams. Sure. But was the pace not good enough for fans last season? I mean holy hell, was hockey too slow? If it’d be faster with 24, it’d be faster than that with 18, and it’d be faster than that with 12, 6, 2, etc. We pick a cutoff that we think can support good hockey and make money, and we’re at 30. Not 36 or 44, we’re at a pretty good number where the hockey is still excellent and as many fans as possible are engaged. And for fans who like that it’d “cut down on goons and grinders,” I say you’re vastly underestimating how many fans like hits and fighting.

I don’t believe that as many teams are losing money as the league and owners would have us believe, either.Friend of the blog @67sound, who I believe is pro-contraction, is on the same page as me in that regard: on top of the teams who don’t show their books or receive public subsidies are the owners who receive the “psychic benefit” of being an owner. Which is to say, some aren’t in it to make money, they’re already loaded, they’re in it for the upper hand in the dick-measuring contest that some rich people like to participate in. CHECK OUT THE STUFF I OWN, IT INCLUDES THOSE HUMANS ON THE ICE AND THE PERSONAL ENJOYMENT OF ALL THOSE FANS. These guys are not hurting as bad as they’d have the public believe.

The NHL isn’t perfect, but no league is. If a team or two has to fold or relocate, I can live with that. But if the system is blown up and we suddenly have the “frantic orgy” of chaos that Cam Cole described, I won’t be too thrilled about it. Every moment will have me rapt, of course, but I’d prefer things stay the way they are.

If the two pig-headed sides of this CBA negotiation can agree on a couple terms, be reasonable here and there, give and take a little, we can have things back to where they were, if not better. I don’t normally fear change, but I do fear the uncertainty of an entirely new NHL.

Comments (54)

  1. I’m tired of the bull-headed sides of this debate, and certainly miss hockey. The league has dragged this along for too long to come out unscathed. There is going to have to be concessions on both sides, and it wouldn’t surprise me if some teams move or just go away entirely. It is terrible for the people employed by hockey in the teams that fold (not talking millionaires, but the dude selling you beer at the event, the setup and tear-down crews at the arena, the little guys) — but it’s business.

    Also, that Tampa stadium picture is old. It’s the Tampa Bay Times forum now ;)

    STM – Tampa Bay Lightning

  2. My gut feeling, though this is informed by being a much-dumped-upon non-traditional hockey fan, is that there’s a group out there who feels the sport somehow “belongs” to them more than another geographic (or national) group. They “deserve” NHL hockey while another location does not. Whether that’s rooted in a cultural superiority/inferiority complex, jingoism or straight-up xenophobia, I’m not quite sure, but the implication is definitely out there.

    I laugh because those people who say “HOCKEY WILL NEVER WORK IN XXXXX MARKET” are insulting the game. So you’re saying hockey is a sport that requires pre-natal exposure to inherently get? What an elitist, inbred sport that must think it is. The hockey I know and love has a universal appeal, given competent management, in any area.

    • My experience is that most people who want contraction are Canadian (or to a lesser extent, are fans of an original 6 team). Contraction may be good for the product (kind of, if you like seeing the same teams play all the time), but it’s very bad for the sport. For whatever reason, hockey isn’t an easy sell in the US – but it’s growing. Look at the number of good NHL draftees coming in from the US. Those are the kids that grew up watching Gretzky play in LA. It is frustrating, but it takes time…

      Hockey is 4th fiddle in the US (Football, Basketball, and Baseball are much more popular). Sure, some teams in the sunbelt won’t make it (there are plenty of teams in the North that aren’t doing well either, by the way – remember the financial situations of several Canadian teams just a few years ago?), but if you want to increase the popularity of the sport, you don’t shrink it. I grew up in places that did not have hockey and had no hockey following. I live in a place that has no hockey at all and is a graveyard for minor league hockey teams…but I’m a HUGE hockey fan. I do my best to spread the word about the sport and expose others to it. I’ve seen minor league teams that started out extremely marginal see their fan bases grow. It just won’t happen on the timeline that we would like.

      • Hockey is like 8th fiddle in the US, if you count NCAA football, NCAA basketball (mens and womens) tennis and golf. Not to mention soccer (both mens and womens) but soccer pro- leagues seem to have ‘normal’ business rules.

        • That may be true (though I would say most Americans would say tennis, golf and soccer are well below hockey in terms of spectator sports).

          So say it’s true, then the solution is to give up and get rid of a bundle of teams? To hurt thousands and thousands of hockey fans in the US who support their teams? In the US, getting new fans to hockey is a word of mouth/buy a friend a ticket process. It’s going to take time in places that have never (or only recently) had hockey.

          When you hear about how much league revenues are up, do you think that’s all Toronto, Montreal, and NY? The game is growing. Slowly. Washington and Tampa Bay are drawing over 18,000 a game. LA and San Jose are drawing over 17,000 a game. Carolina and Nashville (places where even I thought hockey wouldn’t work) are drawing over 16,000 a game.

          San Jose outdraws Edmonton. Nashville and Florida outdraw Winnepeg. It’s not as black and white as you make it out to be.

          • At the end of the day when ticket prices are 50 to 60% more in Edmonton and Winnipeg (and other northern cities) it doens’t matter that when they sell out every night there are 1000 less asses in the seats. They are making way more money. And unfortunately money is what this is all about. Not hockey.

            http://hookedonhockeymagazine.com/average-nhl-ticket-prices-for-2011-2012-season/

          • Bird dog, if you want to get into money, how much TV revenue do US teams bring in vs a team like Winnepeg or Edmonton. I’m pretty sure the league just signed a two billion dollar deal with NBC.

          • Look at who NBC was going to put on TV this year. I don’t disagree that American teams make money and I don’t think the league should be contracted. But clearly NBC doesn’t give a shit about San Jose or Florida (or 2/3 to 3/4 of the league for that matter). NBC wants to show teams that draw the biggest TV audience which is fair, but how are smaller market teams supoosed to get exposure if they are never on TV.

            http://blogs.thescore.com/nhl/2012/08/30/nbc-releases-its-nhl-tv-schedule-eat-it-canada/

          • I was in Phoenix airport last year during the second round of the playoffs. The Coyotes were playing and the game wasn’t on TV. Not local not national nothing. It was on CBC. its ridiculous. I want it to work in Phoenix becasue the rink and the Westgate area are awesome. And the playoff games are sold out and rocking. But if there are only 17,000 people watching because its not on TV its never going to work.

          • San Jose outdraws Edmonton b/c it’s stadium is bigger – both play to 100% capacity. Not as black/white as you make it out either.

    • Erin, I can only assume your comment was directed mostly towards Canadians, so I’ll bite:

      Hockey doesn’t have to be learned in the womb for someone to understand it, but it sure helps when they can actually PLAY the game every winter. As one of those fans who grew up in northern BC where almost every lake, pond, or backyard becomes an outdoor rink for 7-8 months of the calendar year, I’d love for you or anyone else to explain to me how the kids growing up in places like Phoenix or Florida are expected to generate the same level of interest in hockey without a real winter.

      If you want to laugh at those of us who feel that “hockey will never work in XXXXX market” go right ahead. When you’re done with that, explain to us inbred elitists why Tampa Bay couldn’t even get a sellout crowd going when they reached Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Or why the Atlanta Thrashers couldn’t make hockey work in a city of over 5 million potential fans, but the moment they crossed the border, Winnipeg (with its whopping 750K population) sold 13,000 season tickets within 17 minutes.

      My advice? Instead of complaining about those of us that feel we deserve hockey more than someone in one of the Sunbelt states, you should probably just thank your lucky stars that hockey is such a big part of our cultural identity, ’cause Canadian teams send a LOT of $$ south of the border when it comes keeping non-traditional teams like yours around through revenue sharing. I don’t know which team you support but I’m betting part of every dollar I spend on my Canucks goes towards paying that team’s bills, and while I’d gladly buy you a beer (a Canadian brew, of course) just for BEING a hockey fan in a place where it’s not the norm, I can’t say I’m willing to get called out for being more passionate about the sport than most of the people living in whatever city you live in.

      • Atlanta has always been a shitty sports town. No surprise there. Too much local college stuff to compete with.
        I’ve been to lightning games – sold out. I wasn’t there for the playoffs, but the arena an atmosphere for the regular season game I was at was incredible. It takes time and long term success to build a fan base, and Tampa is well on their way.

        %80 of Canadians live within 100 miles of the border. In places like Toronto it’s pretty much impossible now to build an outdoor rink without a cooling plant (Even 30 years ago when I was in high school in TO, the local outdoor rinks had ammonia plants). Hockey is a year round indoor sport now, pretty much everywhere. My kid plays travel hockey, and will be going to SF, LA, San Diego, and other cities this year. Lots of hockey interest, lots of kids playing. There are about 350,000 – 400,000 kids in organized hockey in the USA according to USAHockey – about the same number as in Canada.

  3. No league would be too fast for me.

  4. As a fan of a team that was practically destroyed after the last lockout, I would not wish that on any other team. It took our team until last year to have a real contender again. I do know if I would stay a fan of the NHL if that happened again.

    • This is why hockey does not do as well in the south. In Canada hockey is a part of our culture, much like football in the US. We will fill the arenas whether the team us winning or losing and pay top dollar at that. An attitude that you will only watch a successful team shows you dont care about hockey, only following a winner. Give the product to thr people who love the game like those in Quebec and southern Ontario. Take out the two worst teams financially and we have a start.

      • In other words, you don’t believe that hockey is entertaining enough a sport to sell itself over time to people who didn’t grow up with it.

        You especially don’t believe that hockey is the equal of baseball, football, or basketball, which all made that transition out of their original geographic heartlands in the US Northeast. And soccer? Wow. Hockey is so inferior to soccer (which grew as a structured sport from the British Isles to an international juggernaut) that it should probably just go home and cry.

        Hockey fans like you make me sick. You don’t love hockey. You love your own cultural sense of superiority that you associate with hockey — you love that sense so much that you actively want to stunt hockey’s growth.

      • No, I will not watch and pay for an AHL product when I expect an NHL product. Winning is not the only thing but fielding a competitive team is what matters. Why would I go to games when I know my team will lose. If all contracts disappear, I can only hope that my teams star players will re-sign with our team.

        Also, after my team started having real and quality players on the team, the arena started selling out again. I may support a team that is the least valuable but it still sells out, even in the “south”.

  5. I actually question whether 30 teams really is the “cutoff that we think can support good hockey and make money”. I want hockey to thrive in as many markets as it can, but having it struggle in several markets has a dual negative impact: 1) Those struggling teams (especially the Coyotes) become the story, whether we want it or not, and that not only takes away the focus from the product itself but also constantly raised the question of the overall health of the game, and 2) they directly lead to the sort of CBA strife we’ve had to endure twice in the last 8 years. Fewer teams means fewer NHL-level jobs for players and orgs, which sucks. But those few franchises (no more than 4 in my mind) create huge headaches when it comes to negotiating new agreements. Now I understand how cyclical it all is for franchises like Carolina, NYI, TB, and that the longer they last, the better chance they have of becoming viable (or returning to viability), and I really don’t want to see them go. But right this minute, in the teeth of this calamity of a negotiation, they do more harm than good and I think that’s where the fans get frustrated.

    Also, how awesome would a disbursement draft be?!

  6. Contraction will not happen. I’d even put money that within 5 years there will be more than 30 teams (32 is my guess; 4 divisions of 8). It’s really the only win-win for players and owners. Players get 50 more jobs, owners get expansion fees.

    • Yep. There are too many reasons for the NHL to expand rather than contract, where the owners and players union are concened. If the lockout has taught us anything, the owners and players union get a lot more say than whiney fans in Toronto who wish the league only had 6 teams.

  7. It never makes sense.

    As a Sharks fan, one of my biggest annoyances is reading the comment-ards (ok… guilty as charged at times…) railing on about “sun belt teams” and how we’d all be better off if they all disappeared. Overwhelmingly it appears that the people that talk about that are (a) Canadian, and (b) have never been to a game in the states (ok… maybe Buffalo). I’ve been to sold out games in Tampa. I’ve been to 3/4 full games in Sunrise. I go to Sharks games that are sell outs all the time. I’ve never been to Phoenix, but from what I have seen, the issues with some franchises are NOT about what State they are in. They are about the product on the ice. If you suck, or play boring hockey, or if your arena is in a shitty local location, or is a piece of crap, you don’t draw fans, Ask the Islanders (sorry Justin). It also happens that it takes a long time to build up a good team, and some of the teams “in trouble” have been incredibly badly run.

    You do not have to live in snow to enjoy hockey. You don’t have to grow up with it.
    In my old-guys rec league in San Jose, about 1/3 of the players are ex-pat Canadians, 1/3 are from the east coast USA, and 1/3 are from California. We’ve got 4500 adults in that in house league alone, at one of about 8 rinks in the area. There are plenty of hockey lovers down here. According to USA Hockey there are about as many kids playing organized hockey in the US as there are in Canada now (though obviously over a greater area, so it looks less dense).

    It’s mostly bitterness, and people pissed off that Winnipeg and Quebec folded, and Canadians pissed off at the “ugly Americans and their American commissioner ruining the league” (I’m a Canadian btw).

    Consider this though – the last thing we want is a league made up of nothing but cities that will fill the arena REGARDLESS of how good the play is. It would be like the Ghost of Harold Ballard consuming the league. There should be a penalty for being bad (though I do believe that the finances of the league need to be improved and that 50/50 will do that). We should all be happy that hockey is expanding. A lot of people need to get their heads out of their butts and look around.

    • You make a great point about mismanaged teams. Florida has been around for almost 20 years, but how many times have they made the playoffs? Two? Three? When you’re trying to build a fan base from nothing, how do you expect that to work? The Thrashers only made the playoffs once in all the time that they were in Atlanta. How do you get fans by losing that often? How can Columbus expect to keep getting fans in the door with such a badly managed team?

      We’ve seen downturns for even “strong” franchises like Chicago when they hit a rough patch – and they have a big, solid fanbase.

      What the league really needs is to make sure that new ownership groups are strong, that there is enough will on ownership’s part to take a big hit to the bottom line the first few years, and to get expansion franchises to be successful on the ice as soon as possible. The only fanbase that I know of that isn’t impacted by poor on-ice performance is the Leafs – and at least they’ve had quite a few medocre years in there.

      • So then I’m confused… if your arena is in a lousy part of town, and previous ownership has alienated sections of the fan base with a lousy product, and because of that your local tv rights deal is lousy and it’s hard to draw fans, and it takes years and years and hundreds of millions of dollars to build a team into a winner, and winning is what it takes to have a successful franchise, how exactly do you expect to attract fantastic ownership into that situation? How is that circumstance a good thing for the league/city/owner to prop up?

        • The talk of fantastic ownership was meant mostly to apply to expansion teams. The groundwork needs to be laid correctly, or there will be many difficult problems to overcome for quite some time. Each mistake or misstep (say, moving to Glendale, away from your fanbase) makes it harder and harder for the team to succeed. Some problems can be fixed with time and investment, others cannot. I think that a good team in Florida could work (if they were to make the playoffs reasonably frequently), but Phoenix is probably too far gone given all of the history there….In Phoenix’s case, I’d advocate moving the franchise, but making sure that there’s a good ownership group, a good arena situation, a reasonable chance of success on the ice, etc. before moving. I certainly don’t think that the franchise should cease to exist (contraction).

        • See Anaheim, San Jose,and Dallas on how to build a viable sustainable franchise in a community.

          You do have some lead time in the first few years to get a team together, get a stadium deal together and start building roots in the community, but you can’t suck for 10 years and expect people to come out.

          • This is exactly what I mean. It isn’t easy to run a successful franchise, but the teams you have mentioned have done it. Do they have up and down years, yeah. The main thing is getting a reasonable amount of success and having a good plan when you start the franchise. No expansion team is going to be super successful on the ice the first few years, but by 5 years in or so, you’d better at least be close to making the playoffs because the goodwill and excitement of a new team is starting to wear off at that point. It’s a miracle that people even still go to Columbus games.

        • Ask the Ottawa Senators.

  8. Usually the fans who like to talk about contraction are the ones who sit within the fan base of teams with comfortable support. They think it puts them on some sort of pedestal as a fan compared with fans from these smaller markets. It’s simple psychology. They build themselves up to tear others down and diminish them and their teams. That’s pretty much what it boils down to. They don’t care about the perception of the NHL product or any of that stuff that they claim to care about. The monetary issues of these other franchises don’t affect them in the slightest and yet they feel they must weigh in on the subject, as if they even have 1/10th of the actual story as it pertains to that actual business or the business experience themselves to weigh in. It usually makes for amusing reading if nothing else.

    • Many of the fans you mention would be shocked at how popular some of the teams are that they are using as examples of failures. I mean, I’ve heard people saying that Anaheim shouldn’t exist, but they had a string of years of sellouts. It takes time to grow a fanbase – a 10 year old team in a non-traditional market cannot be compared to a 100 year old team in a traditional market, it’s apples and oranges. That doesn’t mean that the 10 year old team shouldn’t exist.

  9. I wrote an economics paper on the NHL last year for my dissertation.

    I took each team to be a monopoly with a price setting ability for professional hockey in the city/market they operated in.

    Price (avg ticket price) = arena size+ winning percentage t-1 + payroll + media influence ( # of hockey columinst) + temperature +average income + CANUSD FX + Canadian dummy +Northern US dummy.

    The same variables were used calculate the correlation between profitability and the independent variables above (including ticket price). This data was based on Forbes’ historical hockey valuations – so make what you want of it.

    What I found was temperature and the Market Dummies (northern US and Canada) were the most significant influences on profitability and ticket prices – shocking! Arena Sizes were not correlated which seems odd given the fact any business would want to allocation most of their supply side resources to where their product is the most desired in order to maximise profits (Arena size represents the supply of hockey in a market).

    So to say:
    The ‘Yotes put a great product on the ice last year, and played admirably despite often being out-matched talent-wise. They defended well, got great coaching and fantastic goaltending. They finished third in the Western Conference and won the division. They were a fun surprising story. A hockey story. And fans want them torched because their not impressed with their books. …Que?

    Hockey fans, yes hockey fans – there are not many that live in phoenix – want the ‘Yotes torched because real fan bases (like the Leafs, Rangers and Canadians) subsidize them with our inflated ticket prices, shared profits and artificially low payroll. We care about the books because the books hinder us as fans, true hockey fans and our ability to witness legitimate hockey stories, historical hockey stories not gimmicks.

    The NHL will never be mainstream in United States, they simply do not care. When was the last time PTI or Sportscentre lead with a NHL lockout story? Hockey does have a chance of being a legitimate number two sport in other northern Hemisphere countries. Perhaps the roughly 500 million people that reside in northern Europe and Russia are a more viable market than Southern US. Fewer teams and fewer games in North America would balance the talent gap across the Atlantic. A 66 game schedule & no all-star weekend would give 4-5 weeks for a season long champions league style event. CSKA Moscow v Toronto Maple Leafs in Front of 78,360 fans at Luzhniki Stadium for a legitimate world championship might do a better job of selling the game, but the ‘Yotes had a great year last year.

    In a rent seeking society like United States it is beyond me how they have adopted a socialist view to govern their sport franchises; although protecting rich owner’s bottom lines, in reality might not be that different at all.

    • If you wrote an economics paper saying the Yotes inflate the prices of Canadian teams, you missed some of the fundamental parts of that class. Ticket prices are not based on other costs in leagues like the NHL – they are based on what the market will bear. So the Leafs will charge $150 per ticket or more regardless of how many lower-revenue franchises are in the league because people in Toronto will pay that. And those payrolls before the cap sure paid off in a lot of Cup wins for the Leafs and Rangers…

      I also like that you’re trying to define “legitimate hockey stories” as things that apparently only happen where hockey is the main story splashed across the newspaper every day.

      Can I ask why you believe people in the US will never care about hockey? I hear this all the time from a certain group of fans but never seem to get backup other than “It’s in Canadian blood!” What about this sport makes it fundamentally unsellable to a group of people?

      • He’s the reason I always hear that makes me laugh “It’s warm, ice doesn’t belong in the south.” As though we do not have the technology….

        One thing I do agree with though is that markets that have adults who were kids that grew up with hockey are going to do better than ones that don’t. That said, if you bail on the markets that don’t have these types of adults, that market will never have those types of adults.

        I’ve followed a minor league team that in it’s first three years drew about 1,200 fans a game. Now, years later, the team draws closer to 5,000 and the city has an ice rink that kids can learn the game on. You have to get through those bad years to get to the better ones.

        • Guess you dropped it after the intro to micro class. In a monopoly the firm is the price setter and usually governed/regulated by price floors and ceilings – the salary cap can be some what relatable. However this doesn’t work when a salary cap is tied to the overall growth of a league that operates in three distinct markets. Growth of cap leads to price outstripping demand in Southern US and Canadian market suffers huge dead weight loss in the hockey economy.

          The unsellable aspect is that they’re way more passionate about football, basketball, baseball and even soccer. Most Americans don’t grow up scoring goals to win Stanley cups in driveways and on frozen ponds. That’s why it is in our blood, that’s why 60 + percent of the league are Canadian.

          You walk into a pub in Prague, Stockholm, Helsinki or Moscow during the Winter Hockey is on the television – don’t know how prevalent that is in Southern United States. The engrained historical aspect trumps and cuts the whole bullshit marketing cost out of the equation.

          Although Canada goose is planning to launch a new line of winter coats in Africa I wonder how many years it will take and number of adults to buy into it before it takes off.

          • Go down to the sports bar at the end of my street during hockey season, and they will be showing the Sharks, and it will be packed. It can work down here.

          • By the way, almost no hockey is played outdoors any more, even up in Canada. I grew up in Montreal, and the house league was in parks. Now it’s in arenas. Kids DO play street hockey down here (and even in Gym class).
            Hockey has become a year-round, indoor sport for kids, even in Toronto, where it’s a lot hotter in the summer than in San Jose.

  10. I’m in favor of contraction for one simple reason – It would improve the quality of the game. The NHL level talent pool has clearly gotten deeper, more athletic, and stronger since the late ’80s/early’90s, but the growth in the talent pool was outpaced by expansion. As much as anything, this over-expansion was responsible for the dead-puck, trap era, because teams that lacked the requisite depth to compete had to play defensive hockey to survive. Imagine if you cut the bottom 1/3rd of players out of today’s league and went back to a 21-22 team league? You thought the late ’80s was fast, exciting, mind-blowing hockey? Condense the pool of today’s better conditioned, more skilled, and better equipped players, and you’d have damn near hockey utopia. Just think about that time period, it wasn’t uncommon to see 3rd line guys scoring 20-25 goals. Second/third line guys, like Rick Tocchet, consistently scored 35-45 goals in that era. Heck, Chris Nilan, the quintessential goon of that period once scored 21 goals, and had multiple seasons scoring north of 15. And I don’t think there is any argument that today’s players are more skilled and better conditioned than players of that era. Condense today’s talent pool amongst 21 teams, and not only does scoring, speed, and playmaking increase exponentially, but fighting and goonery decrease because you’re cutting out a large number of the thugs from the league. They simply wouldn’t have a place anymore. I’ll give you one more very succinct example, Scott Hartnell scored 37 goals and was an all-star last year. If you condense the current talent pool by a 1/3rd, it’s likely Hartnell is a second/third liner guy, not a first line all-star.

    • I’m not convinced that the 80′s were such a golden era. You just cited Nilan scoring 20 goals. I tend to think that it has more to do with how absolutely TERRIBLE the defense and goaltending were in the 80′s than how good your goon was. Watch a game from that era – it’s absolutely silly how much space and time all the players had back then. Watch the goalies too, most of those goals aren’t going in today.

    • Comparing across era’s is a fools game. For all we know, Hartnell be an f’ing superstar in the 80′s given the horrible goaltending and lack of relative fitness of the time.

      • I used goals as the citation because it’s the easiest metric to answer. But the reality is if you watch the game, and how free-flowing, free-skating it was back then, then superimpose today’s more complete, better trained athletes, and you would have an absolutely beautiful game to watch. However, that comparison is more esoteric, so I chose to focus on goal scoring. Yes, the goaltending was worse back then, but the equipment was also significantly smaller, and there was much less in the way of technique. The improvement in goaltending would mean that scoring may not jump to the heights of the 80′s, but the style of play would be mesmerizing. Watch a late ’80s Flames vs. Oilers game, then add in today’s athletes to that style of up-tempo, free skating game, and you’ve really got something special.

  11. If they did decertify wouldnt that eliminate any legal argument against league collusion?

    COuldnt the NHL just say “ok owners, we have a cap that teams must not go past”?

    I always figured the CBA demonized collusive acts; in this case the league could get everything it wanted if it just worked together

    am i wrong?

    • Decertification (or disclaimer) would ELIMINATE the waiver of collusion.

      It is strictly BECAUSE the players belong to a union, and that union says “Okay. We’ve gotten together and we’re willing to accept a cap which is, under standard labor law, unlawful” that the NHL can impose spending limits and restrict free-agency to varying levels.

      No union? Cap becomes unlawful. Anti-Trust Law kicks-in.

      The NHLPA makes the cap lawful by agreement, under the CBA.

      It’s like labor law dictating that an individual should have so many breaks, during a normal 8-hour workday. If the individuals form a union and agree that they don’t require a morning, lunch and afternoon break, then they establish an agreed-upon precedent that nullifies the law, for their situation.

      Dissolve the union, and the law of 3 daily breaks applies, once more.

  12. Has either side brought up the possibility of cutting the rosters to 15 skaters? The ECHL and AHL play with less players than the NHL. Four lines are rarely ever used and with players being in such good shape these days those minutes would easily be distributed among the top 9 forwards. You could eliminate a couple salaries from the mix giving more money to go around to the players that make the cut.

    • I’m sure the players union would be absolutely thrilled to negotiate away their jobs. It ain’t happening. Ever.

  13. I wonder how many people were confused by the in n out reference?

  14. Are we sure it’s not just Edmonton fans who want their city to be 26th on a FA’s list of cities he’d want to play for rather than 30th?

    • Once the newness wears off a little in Winnepeg, I’m sure that Edmonton and Winnepeg will be fighting it out for that 30th spot.

  15. I do not believe the talent pool is diluted, but rather growing in leaps and bounds. While the NFL has a player base from almost entirely the US, hockey has players from all over the world! Canada has not stopped producing hockey top quality hockey players, and the rest of the world is doing an amazing job of catching up to our talent! It is my personal opinion that the “diluted” levels of hockey that we see in the NHL are specifically due to the defensive coaching styles that a good portion of teams use. Countless players go from aces in the minors to defensive specialists in the pros so they can get that 3rd or 4th line spot that the current NHL demands. It would require a massive overhaul of the rules (or maybe just call them as written all year long) and salary structure to truly see the full extent of the talent pool that hockey has to offer.

    I also believe that many people believe that “it’s not fair” that a market that is failing continues to get support from the league when most everyone agrees that a team in Quebec City or Regina or Hamilton would be a guaranteed sellout night after night. How can a league not have a team where sellouts are guarenteed??? The truth is, if you only sold a product to the people that already know about and love it, you’d have a very small portion of the potential population consuming it. Placing a franchise in an area where they have had little exposure is the fastest way to get more fans. In much the same way that a TV commercial hopes to advertise to a market, so too does placing a franchise in an area with little exposure hope to advertise to a market. The NHL has been placing franchises in high population areas in an attempt to best advertise the game.

    I would also like to give my “like” to the thread about a well managed team becoming popular in a community being the main reasons for success or lack thereof. As an Ottawa resident, I’ve heard on numerous occasions that the CFL should abandon any hopes of Ottawa having a team again. The truth is, we lost for 30 straight years. THIRTY!! I remember as a kid going to an Ottawa/Calgary game and having a blast because the fan base decided to throw paper airplanes out of anything they could get their hands on and throw them onto the field. Ottawa lost that game something like 60-0. We had horrible ownership group after horrible ownership group that made so many bone-headed moves that no one could take this franchise seriously any more. Mark my words, with Jeff Hunt (who has owned the OHL’s 67s for many years) taking over this team, there will be a rabid fan base excited to attend a game for the first time in decades. Another point… the Philadelphia Eagles, one of the NFLs greatest franchises, has had a half empty stadium for the past 2 months… should we relocate them or should we understand that they are fed up with how bad their team is playing? A fan has only two options when it comes to showing their displeasure in a franchise – stop attending and stop purchasing merchandise. When this happens long enough, change will be forced. Some NHL teams need to be looked at for change, but more from a success standpoint, not a relocation standpoint. If the NHL truly wants to help teams expanding into the sunbelt, help them be successful both on the ice and off the ice. Do not simply throw money at them!

    Someone above wrote about the idea of spreading the NHL internationally. The sheer cost of flying teams back and forth would be crippling to most franchises. This is not possible economically, but when teleporters are invented, this will be a reality for sure!! ;)

    Finally, someone also mentioned that Canadians hate Bettman because he is American. I can tell you personally, the nationality of Bettman is insignifigant to me. That he distorts the truth, thinks the fans are stupid pawns, and has led this league into 3 (or is it 4) lockouts during his tenure are my reasons for not liking him. I’m sure most would agree with this (and list more reasons).

  16. If dissolving their union is going to be such a panacea for the players and the game, why have they not had the intelligence to do it sooner over the last 40+ years? Why did the NFL and NBA actually agree to CBA’s when they had already (supposedly) started down the path to dissolution? Come on – wake up people. The players as a whole don’t want that chaos either. Media keep calling it ‘the nuclear option’. But, in reality, it would be much more like a giant minefield in the total darkness that both sides would have no choice but to navigate for many years to come. It would be a slow, painful process for both sides (and especially the fans). The idea makes for great fantasy dramatics, not great fandom though.

  17. Even though I’ve grown up in a traditional northern market, I want to see hockey become relevant nationally. To me there is no way to accomplish that by having fewer teams in fewer markets. I think the NHL was a little overzealous in its southern expansion, but I think they were heading in the right general direction. It’s difficult to tell how much of a success Atlanta could have been had the franchise not been a complete disaster. (Conversely, what the eff Newark, you’ve won approximately 312 Stanley Cups in my lifetime and have one of the greatest goalies ever, why don’t you show up?)

  18. They players union has been making it up as they go along for the last 40+ years, for starters. This is the first time they’ve had the leadership, unity, and wherewithal to put up a real fight. Secondly, the reason the NBA and NFL didn’t have to fully decertify is because the mere threat of it caused the owners to finally give a little to get a deal done, just like they should here. Fully decertifying would be as big a disaster for 20+ NHL teams as it would be for the players. It’s far from ideal, but Bettman and the owners have been so ridiculous throughout this process that it may take a gigantic slap across the face to get them to show some reasoned thinking.

  19. I firmly believe in reducing the number of NHL franchises. Firstly, there simply are not enough good hockey players to fill thirty rosters. How many teams truly roll fours lines? You can count that on one hand. Too many marginal players that only have a spot because of the number of teams. Reduce down to twenty four teams and I can practically guarantee each team could roll four solid lines on a consistent basis which will improve the game ten fold. I would also increase the number of players on a roster to help offset the number of jobs lost to retraction. Twenty four teams, 76 games in the regular season will be perfect. It’s not brain surgery….JUST DO IT!

    • 76 games I’ll agree with… but contracting teams and adding more players to rosters?

      Check out my post above.

  20. The NHL could use Contraction but only 2 teams need to go, Panthers and the Coyotes. or at least move them to better markets

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