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Wednesday, February 16, 2021

locked 'til ???
As I noted earlier, this year’s National Hockey League season is kaput. And while the end has been in sight for weeks now, the finality of it provided that final jarring feeling.

It’s natural to assign blame for the first major-league full-season cancellation. Fans, predictably, are blaming the players, assigning it to greed. Bloggers, who for the most part are fans as well, pretty much are pinning it on the players as well. Reporters and analysts have parceled out equal shares of damnation to both sides, especially as the dispute dragged on; but even there, the underlying feeling had been that the players needed to acquiesce.

So mostly, the public sentiment has been that the players are responsible for no games this year. With that, let me make the following statement:

It is all the owners’ fault — without exception, without qualification, without a shred of doubt.

Clear enough? There’s no NHL hockey this season, and it’s the owners, with their greed and their duplicity, who have killed it. Not the players, not their agents, nobody but the boys in charge.

Details:

- The moment a team owner ceases to complain publicly about how much money he’s losing, give me a call. NHL owners have claimed long and loud about how much red their team operations are bleeding; some of them have been doing so for decades. It has to be considered a miracle just how any business, much less a high-volume one like major professional sports, can lose mountains of cash year after year, and yet continue to stay in business year after year.

- Salary levels rise year after year in the NHL; it’s a given. Yet every time a franchise comes up for sale (either an existing club or through expansion), buyers line up to grab the brass ring. If the business model is so lousy, why would anyone pony up for what’s allegedly a sure money-loser?

- The owners claim to have offered to let the NHLPA look at team books. When those books show overhead expenses like rent — for facilities that just about always are owned by the same holding company that controls the team — and municipally-owned parking lots, it doesn’t take much savvy to figure that there’s a lot of cooking going on.

- I’m sure every business owner on the planet would love to have “cost certainty” built into their operations. But last time I checked, when you run your show in a free market, the only certainty you have is competition — for talent, for results, and for the opportunity to show you can succeed against your peers. An entertainment venture measured (mostly) in wins and losses is the most transparent way to demonstrate that.

I can go on. I can point out how the owners abandoned the semantic dancing around not calling their various proposals “salary caps” — for the past two week, “cap” dropped from Bettman’s and Daly’s lips freely. I can mention how, for a decade, the league opted to continue operating under the last collective bargaining agreement that was killing them, despite having two opportunities to end it. I can bring up another half-dozen things that show how hollow their poverty-pleading is.

But why? Bottom line, the owners stonewalled by negotiating via fiat, forcing the union to make a last-ditch effort in accepting a cap, then pulling the plug despite this philosophical agreement. It’s over, the process basically begins again from square one, and my fingers are crossed for on-ice faceoffs come October 2005.

Life goes on. Eventually, so will the NHL.

- Costa Tsiokos, Wed 02/16/2005 11:33:33 PM
Category: Hockey, SportsBiz | Permalink |

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  1. The fools are the fans who continue to pay $52 for nosebleed seats. I work for hockey, and when a labor dispute begins to seriously jeopardize my loyalty to the game, it matters not who is to blame. It took me ten years to finally come all the way back to baseball, my favorite sport. Thank God for the Cubs and BoSox.

    Comment by Todd — 02/17/2005 @ 12:06:47 PM

  2. I assign blame to both sides. When you have a Serge Federov saying he won’t play for anybody who doesn’t make him “the highest paid player in hockey” then there are some real issues.

    Many owners get in to sports (not just hockey) for the pretige of owning a team. Many turn a nice profit, some cover costs, some take a loss. Fact is all professional sports are OUT OF CONTROL on salaries. I wish they would boradcast more ECHL and IHL games, then NHL could kiss my butt.

    Comment by Bubblehead — 02/17/2005 @ 12:51:08 PM

  3. Wrong on all counts:

    - No one buys a team for “prestige”, or for that other erroneous assumption, as a hobby. They buy it because it’s a high-profile moneymaking business that opens the doors to a bunch more moneymaking businesses.

    -Salaries are not “out of control”. Just because you think no athlete should be making XX number of dollars doesn’t mean they can’t command that on the market. If the money wasn’t there, the owners wouldn’t be paying it. Payroll is one of the easiest items to cut; a team pays what it has to, in line with its goals.

    - Ticket prices are based on supply and demand. As long as the customer pays the price, the teams can set them as high or as low as they want. There’s no direct linkage between that and player costs, or any other operational costs. If there were, tickets to NCAA football and basketball games would be free, since those players aren’t paid.

    I’m not even going to get into the fundamental issues, such as a player’s severely limited window of opportunity in having a career vs. the owner’s long haul (or lucrative exit strategy as an option). Most fans don’t want to hear it, and they’re welcome to cover their ears. Myself, I’m calling the owners out for the greed merchants they are.

    Comment by CT — 02/17/2005 @ 01:11:58 PM

  4. UNLOCKED

    Game on.
    Hallelujah, and pass the puck.
    I’m happy. The switch has been flipped back on, and I can occupy my idle thoughts with player transactions, on-ice action and analysis, and the occasional player controversies. I missed having a season&…

    Trackback by Population Statistic — 07/13/2005 @ 11:20:36 PM

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