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The NHL 2004-2005 Season (LOCKOUT! now over)


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#1 of 313 Moe Maishlish

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Posted September 15 2004 - 08:40 AM

Well, it's officially official. By midnight tonight, the NHL lockout will be in effect...

http://www.nhlcbanew...ting091504.html

This obviously blows donkey balls for us hockey fans. No season in the forseable future, given the nature of the grievance. It's basically boiling down to the whole salary-cap issue... the owners want one, the players don't, and neither side wants to budge. It's all about money.

The truly sad part is what a full-scale & enduring lockout will mean to the league. Frankly, I don't think the sport can survive losing a season of hockey. Even if this issue is resolved in time to complete HALF a scheduled season of games, I'm betting that enough fans in smaller market cities will be alienated to the point that they'll just lose interest! Less interest will result in less ticket sales, which means less revenue for the teams, which means less money to spend on players, etc. etc. etc. Before you know it, the team folds, and people are out of their jobs.

Look at what happened to MLB ten years ago with the Baseball strike! Toronto still hasn't recovered from the loss of the season, and individual game attendance has been way way low since then. I don't think the Leafs will suffer at all if there's a strike (because hey, we're HOCKEY TOWN! You're lucky if you can get your hands on nosebleeds for a crappy game!), but less hockey-centric cities like Nashville or Columbus will probably lose a significant portion of their fanbase, and hence revenue.

It's a sad state of affairs when an athlete considers an average salary of 1.3 Million U.S. (plus a kick-ass pension, plus benefits, etc. etc. etc) to be to little. I wonder if the athletes & owners understand the true economics of the situation, and how some of the fans who are making 2% of their salaries (if we're lucky!) are the ones who are actually supporting them! The fans buy the tickets, the fans watch the NHL broadcasts on TV, and the fans buy the team & player branded sports apparel.

Shame on them...

A lockout will hurt everyone... players, owners, and fans alike.

Moe.
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#2 of 313 Jason Seaver

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Posted September 15 2004 - 08:57 AM

Quote:
It's a sad state of affairs when an athlete considers an average salary of 1.3 Million U.S. (plus a kick-ass pension, plus benefits, etc. etc. etc) to be to little. I wonder if the athletes & owners understand the true economics of the situation, and how some of the fans who are making 2% of their salaries (if we're lucky!) are the ones who are actually supporting them!
I don't think that athletes consider what they get paid "too little". I think that they, like most of us, simply want to maximize their income, and dislike artificial restrictions placed on how much they can make, or whom they can work for, by a league that is a de facto monopoly.
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#3 of 313 Moe Maishlish

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Posted September 15 2004 - 09:07 AM

Quote:
I don't think that athletes consider what they get paid "too little". I think that they, like most of us, simply want to maximize their income, and dislike artificial restrictions placed on how much they can make, or whom they can work for, by a league that is a de facto monopoly.

If they're looking for more, than it implies that the offer on the table isn't enough... but really, how much is enough, and when does it end?

You're right of course, a cap does get in the way of insanely unrealistic salaries. Players & owners can call it whatever they want, and spin it any way that they please, but it still just boils down to making more money. Of course, "maximizing" their incomes is really just another way of saying that they want to grab as much cash as they possibly can... which is exactly what the cap is supposed to be there to stop.

(FYI, it's a perceived monopoly, not a true one. There are other leagues... they're just not MAJOR league status like the NHL, and don't pay nearly as much. The same claim can be applied to MLB, NBA, NFL, etc.)

Moe.
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#4 of 313 Scott Merryfield

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Posted September 15 2004 - 09:34 AM

Basically, the owners want a salary cap and no revenue sharing between the franchises. The players want revenue sharing but no salary cap.

The real answer for the NHL is that both a salary cap and revenue sharing are necessary to survive in the future. This model works in the NFL. I've said this before -- if the NFL was run like MLB and the NHL, the Green Bay Packers would no longer exist. However, under the NFL's system, the Pack not only survive, but they thrive. A professional league is only as strong as its weakest components. The disparity in income between the "haves" and "have-not" teams is getting larger year by year.

The best thing that could come out of this lockout is (1) a salary cap and revenue sharing are both initiated, and (2) several smaller market teams go bankrupt. Hockey is a regional, not a national, sport in the States. The NHL has expanded into too many markets that will not support the sport. The league needs to accept what it is -- a regional sport that enjoys immense popularity in Canada and some select U.S. markets. Forget about trying to sell the sport in places like Pheonix, Atlanta and Raleigh (to name just a few). Those areas do not have enough interest to provide the financial income necessary in today's professional sports systems.

If the NHL goes through this lockout and nothing changes financially (like the '94 baseball strike/lockout), then this sport may lose me just as MLB lost me as a fan in 1994. I have not attended or watched a MLB game on TV since, and I do not miss it at all.

#5 of 313 Ken Chui

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Posted September 15 2004 - 09:43 AM

After watching an excellent WCH finale between Canada and Finland last night, it's disheartening and infuriating from a hockey fan's perspective that a portion, if not the complete 2004-2005 season will be lost. Given that the proposed demands on both sides are so far apart, I don't think that a compromise will be reached anytime soon.

Preserving the status quo would be financial suicide for the league as a whole; a salary cap has to be instituted if the majority of the NHL teams are to survive. Even if matters are resolved in a timely fashion, there are at least a handful of teams that I don't see surviving the long haul, in particular, some of the upstart franchises where hockey is perceived as little more than a novelty and their impact on the local economy is minimal (e.g. Nashville, Atlanta, Carolina, etc.).


#6 of 313 Malcolm R

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Posted September 15 2004 - 09:58 AM

Why do they need a cap? If the owners don't want to pay as much, they just shouldn't offer as much. Why is it necessary to create a "cap" on paper to accomplish this?
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#7 of 313 Blu

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Posted September 15 2004 - 10:01 AM

This is why the NFL rules while the other sports are losing fans and interest. I don't miss major league baseball at all and if it continues in its current fashion without major reforms then I could actually see it changing in a major way for the worse.

When the inmates run the asylum it is never good. The NHL should have learned a lesson from MLB, especially since the NHL isn't as popular in the States as it is in Canada.

If these sports continue to take their fans for granted then they deserve the unemployeement they are going to get, I don't feel sorry for either side.

#8 of 313 Lew Crippen

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Posted September 15 2004 - 10:19 AM

Yet another case where both sides are right and both sides are wrong.

Quote:
Why do they need a cap? If the owners don't want to pay as much, they just shouldn't offer as much. Why is it necessary to create a "cap" on paper to accomplish this?
Basically a cap is needed so that all teams can be competitive with each other. In general there are two factors (really many more, but these two will do for a short post) determining how competitive teams can be in an open market: the revenue a team generates and how much the owner of a team wants to make (note that in some cases this may be negative).

The revenue of any team depends on the amount that comes from common sources (such as any revenue controlled by the league) and what each team can generate in its local market. Now assuming that things like TV revenue are equally shared, big market teams and ones where the game is followed by a large portion of the population, still have a very big advantage in being able to sell more expensive seats and more of them. Plus the ancillary revenue is very much more. It goes on.

Secondly franchise owners are not all created equally. Some owners have more money than others and of those, some are more willing to spend a lot of money to get a winner. So if an owner of one team wants to win the Stanley Cup more than he wants to make money, he will forego a large profit to the point that he may actually subsidize the team and spend a lot of money for players he wants.

Now this is good for the players and it is good for the fans of that club (and the owner), but not so good for clubs owned by people who don’t want to do that. And those clubs fans—now one can argue that this is what the free market is all about. Owners who want to spend the money can do so and those who don’t, don’t have to.

But in reality, almost all of the teams will be forced to pay high salaries if they want to remain competitive (or be seen by the local fans as being competitive). In most cities, non-competitive teams won’t draw very many fans, so it is sort of a vicious cycle).

On the other hand, the players have a very persuasive argument that it is not their responsibility to save the owners from themselves.

They feel that they should be able to sell their services to the highest bidder.
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#9 of 313 Moe Maishlish

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Posted September 15 2004 - 10:23 AM

Quote:
Why do they need a cap? If the owners don't want to pay as much, they just shouldn't offer as much.

Because, like anything else in life, you're expected to pay for "quality". In other words, if you draft a young kid straight out of the juniors and he turns into a superstar that puts asses in the seats, he (or rather, his agent) is going to try and re-negotiate his contract to astronomic proportions when it comes up for renewal. If you can't pay him what he wants, then some other team with the $$$ in hand will step in and pull him out from under you. It's that simple.

In that system, the rich get richer (as the teams with the most money can afford to pay the best players), and the poor stay poor (as you can't afford to pay good players to play for you, your team sucks, you can generate interest in your club, and no one shells out money for tickets).

Unfortunately, the concept of "team loyalty" is lost on most major-league athletes these days. The majority of them go where the money is. The days of players like Steve Yzerman (who has played for Detroit his entire 22 year career, regardless of salary) are looooong gone.

Moe.
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#10 of 313 Richard Travale

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Posted September 15 2004 - 10:29 AM

Brian Burke, the ex GM of the Vancouver Canucks has devised a plan (a pretty good one too I think) that would get things on track.

http://www.cbc.ca/st....rke040914.html

Really good read.

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#11 of 313 Lew Crippen

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Posted September 15 2004 - 10:36 AM

Burke’s plan probably makes too much sense to be adopted by either the owners or the players. At least until there is an extended stoppage.
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#12 of 313 Jeff Ulmer

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Posted September 15 2004 - 10:59 AM

It was my understanding that the salary cap is NOT player based but team based. In that scenario, a team could still pay huge dollars for a key player, but they would have to adjust their salary roster to do so.

I agree that we need both team based caps and revenue sharing to create a viable league. I don't begrudge a player for wanting to make the most income he can in a relatively short career, but I also hate seeing teams loaded with stars (which often doesn't work, ala New York Rangers) while others are mining the juniors. No one wants to see one sided games.

This lockout isn't going over well here, but my cable service is being disconnected if there isn't any hockey.

#13 of 313 Bob-N

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Posted September 15 2004 - 11:20 AM

Man, the Gary Bettman press conference was grim. If Bob Goodnow (sp?) is as tenatous as Gary was in the conference, no wonder they couldn't get anything done.

Based on Bettman's conference, it appears that the season is lost. I hope that's not the case and both sides get back to the bargaining table.

#14 of 313 Richard Travale

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Posted September 15 2004 - 11:38 AM

Jeff, supposedly the player's union is more concerned about the little guy. The 4th liner or the 7th D. Those guys that don't make that much and at only 5 or 6 hundred grand a season would be on the bread line (this is a quote from a player a couple of years ago...I wish I remember who it was)without the union. The guys that supposedly aren't able to set anything aside from their half million per year contracts to live on in their twilight years. These are the guys that the nhlpa are fighting for, not the uber rich, multi millionaire superstars. God Bless 'Em the nhlpa!

Oh wait, this is the same union that is now letting the big names in the NHL play in Europe and now (with Hasek and Spezza) play in the AHL. hmm, fighting for the little guy yet... these players that have been making millions are now taking jobs away from the young and career minor leaguers that may make 50k a year at best. Interesting.

Nice work there Goodenow! Posted Image

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#15 of 313 Casey Trowbridg

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Posted September 15 2004 - 12:43 PM

Quote:
Why do they need a cap? If the owners don't want to pay as much, they just shouldn't offer as much. Why is it necessary to create a "cap" on paper to accomplish
this?

The short answer is that assuming that you could get all the owners to agree to do this and keep salaries down, then the NHL players could take them to court and charge them with colusion, which is exactly what the Major League Baseball players did in the Mid-80's. But, you'd never get the owners to agree to do this anyway, if there were no cap, even if they agreed there would be no recourse to stopping a team say like the New York Rangers or any other franchise from breaking the agreement.

As for baseball, that sport is now rebounding quite nicely from the strike of 1994 of course hockey doesn't have as large a fan base to draw from as baseball did, and so I don't think hockey could do what baseball is doing.

The MLB attendance has been rising steadily the past few seasons...

I'm saddened that there won't be a season this year in all likelyhood, anything is possible but realistically I don't see this being played. At least I have ESPN NHL Hockey 2005 to keep me busy.

#16 of 313 Prentice Cotham

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Posted September 15 2004 - 03:31 PM

I thought this was a good opinion piece from Yahoo. Link to article

Puck stops with Bettman

by Dan Wetzel, Yahoo! Sports
September 15, 2004


The NHL lockout that will go into effect Thursday is a result of myriad issues, mistakes and market trends. Some of which, we acknowledge, can't be pinned on commissioner Gary Bettman.

That, however, doesn't change the league's core problem: Nearly 12 years into his tenure, Bettman's abject failure has the NHL facing a work stoppage that threatens not just its season but also its long-term future.

No matter how much nonsense both sides spin during this maddening lockout, the simple thing to remember is that someone has to be held accountable for this mess.

The NHL has spent the more than a decade following Bettman's plan to supposedly modernize and market itself. But it now plays to a dwindling fan base with two-thirds of its franchises bleeding money and a television contract that is an industry joke. It will lock out its players because of a problematic, one-sided collective bargaining agreement Bettman negotiated in 1994.

How's that for leadership?

Sure, it is difficult to side with the players (average salary: $1.79 million) in sports labor disputes. But if the owners are going to spend like drunken sailors, you can't honestly expect the players to turn the money down.

It is supposed to be the commissioner who either keeps the owners in line or figures out a way to generate so much new revenue it hardly matters.

Bettman has done neither.

Bettman's problem is with his promise. He was brought in as some wunderkind from the NBA, hired to push the NHL into the modern age of sports.

Almost from the start he showed he was the wrong guy for this job.

I have long contended that Bettman's most telling – if relatively harmless – move was his immediate renaming of the divisions and conferences. Always one to portray himself as the smartest guy at the rink, Bettman figured that if he had no history with hockey (he was a casual fan at best), then hockey had no history. So out went the classic (Norris Division, Campbell Conference, etc.) and in came the generic (Southeast Division, Western Conference).

Anyone who already was a hockey fan and liked the unique names would just have to deal. Old fans no longer mattered. Bettman cared only about new fans and since they wouldn't know who Clarence Campbell was, why name a conference after him?

But were "new fans" so stupid they couldn't figure out Los Angeles, San Jose and Vancouver were in the West?

From there the blunders have ranged from the foolish – allowing Fox to use a glowing puck for telecasts, which made the league an XFL-level laughingstock – to the damaging. Expansion and relocation have pulled the league away from its hockey-mad northern roots to the disinterested Sun Belt.

Bettman's believed hockey is so exciting that once you see it live you are hooked. Through hyper-expansion he'd make it a truly national sport.

The plan has been a failure. While core groups of fans have developed, no franchise in the South has thrived unless the team is deep in Stanley Cup contention. Instead, the league's talent has been diluted (imagine the quality of play if the NHL were still just 21 teams?), ancient rivalries withered and the preponderance of new teams confused causal fans who couldn't (or no longer tried to) tell Atlanta from Nashville.

Television ratings in the United States are anemic and in Canada flat, at best. Next year's U.S. contract brings in no meaningful rights fees, just the opportunity for the NHL and NBC to share advertising revenue.

It is basically the same deal NBC has with arena football.

Hockey is still as great of a sport as we've got. It is thrilling and chilling and gripping. But it's not for everyone. It never has been.

Rather than maximize what it can be, it followed the foolish plan of a fumbling leader. In trying to get bigger, hockey alienated some of its base, weakened its quality of play and, in turn, managed to get smaller. It turns out Bettman's promises wrote checks his reality can't cover.

So we are at this impasse. Unless the owners get a hard cap based on revenue percentage (which the union is loathe to agree to), the NHL as is faces an uncertain future. In the interim, the only sport we get is watching both sides blame the other.

But remember this when you listen to Gary Bettman: If he hadn't failed at his job the past dozen years, hockey wouldn't be in such dire straights right now.
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#17 of 313 Brian Perry

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Posted September 15 2004 - 03:47 PM

One thing is certain: drastic changes are needed. To give you an idea how bad it's gotten in Chicago, last year the Blackhawks had to pay the local radio station to carry the games. Quite a change for a sport that once was the number one ticket in town.

#18 of 313 Casey Trowbridg

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Posted September 15 2004 - 04:14 PM

Prentice, thanks for linking to that and posting it, he makes some very good points that I guess I hadn't really thought of before.

#19 of 313 Lou Sytsma

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Posted September 15 2004 - 11:59 PM

A cap seems to be the only legal recourse. If the owners get together and agree on a budget for their respective teams then it's collusion. The owners need this to save themselves from themselves.

In the end, the current situation exists because owners seeking to win at all costs have paid outrageous contracts. These percolate down through the system and end up raising the salaries of everyone.
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#20 of 313 Scott Merryfield

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Posted September 16 2004 - 12:29 AM

A cap without revenue sharing still will not solve all the league's problems. There is a huge disparity in revenue between teams, since virtually all revenue is derived locally -- the teams will earn nothing from the new national TV contract in the U.S., and I doubt that CBC pays very much for Canadian broadcast rights.

I played golf last spring in Myrtle Beach with three guys from Montreal. Being a huge Canadiens fan myself, the topic naturally turned to hockey. One of the guys had a humorous, but very good, suggestion. Any city where an ice cube cannot stay frozen outside in January shouldn't have a team. Posted Image

Great article, Prentice. It really outlines the NHL (and Bettman's) failures over the past decade.


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