Sunday, September 2, 2012

Greed, Arrogance and Stupidity aka NHL

I don't pretend to know every issue related to the rift  between the NHL and NHLPA, but I do know this.  The league posted record revenues of 3.3 billion dollars last season, and also signed a ten year, 2 billion dollar TV contract with NBC which should help to keep the interest in the NHL growing outside of the non-traditional markets in Canada and the US, and they have cost certainty in the form of the salary cap which was the core issue of the last lockout.  In addition, HBOs 24/7 is coming off its second successful campaign, another innovative way for the league to expand its footprint, as well as the Winter Classic, a large scale event on New Year's day that also should continue to help the NHL become a more valuable entity in the years to come.  Finally, they closed the largest sponsorship deal in league history with Miller, Coors and Molson, and played to 96% percent capacity during the regular season, and according to Bettman 102% capacity during this year's playoffs.    It would seem to me that you don't need to fix what ain't broke, no?  Did the league not get healthier by leaps and bounds since you returned to play in 2005 under the current CBA?   Yes, you want to limit the term in a contract to 5 or 6 years instead of allowing teams to offer 14 year deals that basically circumvent the spirit of a cap, but two points here.....First, you were the ones who made those OFFERS, so if you cannot treat the LEAGUE as your business versus thirty individual fiefdoms that is your issue, not the players issue, and second, offering deals like the ones offered to Parise, Suter, and Weber this offseason while crying that you are paying players too much was not a stroke of genius in the court of public opinion.  I get that as owners you feel like you get to dictate how much of the pie you want, and in theory you are totally correct.  I owned, built and sold a pretty good sized business over an eight year period, and I also felt that taking the risk, having the idea, and the client contact entitled me to a lot of the pie.  I also KNEW that if I did not give enough of the pie to the people who made the business what it was on a daily basis that my benefits, though greater short term, would suffer long term.  In that vein, nobody is coming to the arena to see your mostly fat, entitled, arrogant asses.  They are coming to see the magic and the moments created by the best and most accessible professional athletes on the planet.  Without them, you don't have ANYTHING. Their skills on the ice, and their grace and dignity off of the ice is your product.  Why not TWEAK the current deal that is working right now to make the NHL relevant outside of the core markets v acting like the greedy, arrogant bastards you are proving to be?  Your statement that your NHL fans are the best and that we will be there either way, though true in some senses, was also another indicator that you are either stupid, arrogant or both.  A guy like me who has his team tattooed on his arm in a full sleeve, an addition filled with memorabilia, and 4 season tickets for work and 4 more for personal use is not likely to disappear over a lockout.  But. guess what?  I will not spend the kind of money I have been spending, my passion has slipped a bit, and my worth financially to the league will not be at the same level after the second lockout in 8 years.  I used to love baseball and have never gone to more than 2 games  in a season since their last labor stoppage. It won't hit me for hockey that hard, but it will have a negative impact on my zeal for the game.   More casual or newer fans may just decide that they will stick with the NBA, NFL, NASCAR, or college sports versus getting into this sport that cannot stay in business for long periods without work stoppages.  For years you were not as relevant in the US as NASCAR, and you want to derail the progress made over the past several years now?     So, while you try to gouge the assets that make your business, a business, you are screwing the players, the fanatical fans who helped get you to where you are today, and the workers who actually depend on these games for income for their family, while you are also  losing some of the newer fans you fought so hard to get over the past eight years.  And don't forget, this time a lot of your top talent will play in the KHL instead of sitting around waiting on you.   What if a handful of well known middle to upper tier Europeans stay?  What if 4 or 5 star players suffer significant injuries while over there?  Seems like a lot to risk when your business has never been healthier.  Social media will make the sour taste left in the mouths of fans spread MUCH faster than the last time around. kind of like a virus.   Again, I dont get why the current CBA with some tweaks to contract term, and some form of discussion relative to revenue sharing and maybe limiting entry level contracts is not a viable option.   I don't pretend to know all of the issues but it would seem to me that asking for a rollback AGAIN, while your business is growing at a record pace, while acting like the fans who create your revenues don't matter that much to you is a bad business move that will come with some significant cost.  Gary Bettman's salary of 8 milllion dollars per year being spread all over is not going to be a plus in the court of public opinion either.  Bettman and owners continue to show that the planet's best game is run by a  GARAGE LEAGUE.  Get your shit together and figure out a way to get on the ice in October.

Since writing this post originally, I found an NHL press release with the following statistics relative to revenues created through concessions and apparel sales in North America.  Consumer Products were up 15%, Jersey sales were up 25%, Lifestyle Apparel sales up 35%, Children's Apparel sales up 14%, Headwear sales were up 41%, NHL store sales were up 27%, sales were up 20%,  and Team Concessions were up 13% across the board.  Again, it is really tough to have much sympathy for the position being taken by the owners in this scenario.

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