Saturday, February 19, 2005

The Root of the NHL's Problems

For the vast majority of its history, hockey has been a successful regional sport in USA. In fact, during the original six days, the New York Rangers were the southernmost NHL franchise. And during that time everybody made a lot of money from NHL hockey.

Gary Bettman took over the league in the 1990's. Hockey was still a regional sport that was successfully making a lot of people a lot of money. But he was determined to stop that. Bettman put new teams into weak markets with soft ownership that didn't have much interest in hockey. Bettman promised a big national TV deal that never really materialized. It should be clear now that plan has failed. These largely southern US teams are failing. They have no great TV deal. So what do we do know? Logically, we admit the mistake and go back to a successful regional NHL.

Bettman cannot do that. That would be admitting that his whole run as NHL commissioner has been a mistake. Instead he must prop up the poorly run new franchises in weak markets. The way he has chosen to do that is to impose a new CBA that pulls money away from the players. Do the stronger existing markets need this CBA? In general they do not. However, they would make even more money with it in place - so they are not strongly against it. This failure to admit Bettman's mistake has cost us a season so far (maybe we will see some joke mini-season).

The best plan for everyone is to get rid of a few poorly run franchises in weak hockey markets then to weaken all teams to their level. But Gary Bettman cannot do that without admitting his whole run as NHL commissioner has been wrong.

I just discovered your blog & I like what I see so far. I'm totally in agreement with the need of a contraction...
Your ideas are right on except you leave out part of the picture. Yes, Bettman's run as cimmissioner has fallen flat on it's face. Poor management, misguided expansion & fiddling with a product that at the time didn't need fixing.

However, you are forgetting that these expansion team owners paid $7 million to join the league. You can't just dissolve them without HUGE legal & PR nightmares.
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