Gold: NHL's position should push fans away
Posted October 30, 2012
How dare they?
Didn't the National Hockey League just wipe away an entire season eight years ago? Didn't Commissioner Gary Bettman and his band of multi-millionaires decide that shutting down the season in the winter of 2005 was the only way to save the league from the rapidly escalating, and out-of-control player costs? Then, when faced with the prospect of seeing the stalemate extend into yet another season, didn't the players concede to most of the owners' demands?
Didn't players agree to a percentage reduction of all current contracts because there were too many teams that were headed for financial ruin? Now correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't the players also give in to management's demands for a salary cap for the first time in the history of the league? And, didn't the players also agree to a limit on how much a team's best players could earn?
I don't know, maybe I wasn't paying attention, but I'm fairly sure that the players essentially gave the owners just about everything they wanted, starting with "cost certainty", sort of a financial restrictor plate for the NASCAR set. This was critical to the NHL's teams, and the salary cap, tied to a 54% share of the league's hockey-related revenue, was set at $39 million per team. Even though the league wielded the hammer, they continued to push the notion that they were seeking a "partnership" with the players and that as long as revenues continued to grow, the players' salaries would as well. In fact, they have. So much so that heading into this season, the salary cap was set at a shade over $70 million, an increase of nearly 80% over the seven seasons of growth. And, somehow, it still isn't enough.
How dare they?
Imagine telling your customers that, in spite of the obvious financial growth of the league -- as evidenced by the growing salary cap -- you needed more concessions from the players and if you didn't get them we were headed down the same dead-end road that led to the elimination of the 2004-05 season? Imagine the audacity you have to have to slam the door in the face of the fans. These are the people who buy the tickets. These are the people who shop in the team stores. They bring their children, also known as the next generation of your fans, spend a sizable chunk of their discretionary income or sit at home 82 nights a year and watch their favorite team on television. Those people have made a financial and emotional commitment to you, but more importantly they've committed their time -- maybe their most precious commodity -- and there's no adequate way to measure the worth of one's time.
How dare they do this again?
Gary Bettman and his greedy, selfish, money-grabbing bosses have now officially admitted that not only don't they care in the least about the league's fans, but that they also have no idea what they're doing. They shut down the sport for an entire season less than a decade ago to get what they wanted -- excuse me; what they needed for survival -- and now, a mere eight years later, they need to blow it up again? Why would anyone trust them that they won't detonate the league again eight years from now? What's worse, is that during an off-season in which roughly a half-billion dollars was doled out in enormous, long-term guaranteed contracts, it appears that these same owners never thought they'd actually be responsible for payment in full.
In some circles that would be termed "larceny".
In the twisted minds of the NHL's owners, however, it's survival.
Well, here's something to chew on, fellas. The NBA starts tonight. LeBron James and the Miami Heat open defense of their world championship, and I'm interested in what they have to sell. I'm intrigued by the roster changes in Los Angeles. I'm curious whether the exciting, young Thunder can take the next step, even as they've traded away one of their best players. And, I can't wait to see if James can start dominating his way into iconic status. Mostly though, I feel this way because the National Hockey League has decided that I don't matter.
Two can play at that game, Mr. Commissioner.
There's no need to get into the details of the current dispute. It doesn't matter who I think is right and who I think is wrong when it comes to the nitty gritty of negotiations. Neither side has put forth their very best offer and yet, almost everyone familiar with the figures seems to feel as though there is a framework for an agreement.
The most important thing to remember -- in fact, the only thing to remember -- is that Gary Bettman led his owners down the road that destroyed an entire season, severely damaged thousands of people whose livelihood depends on a full schedule and alienated millions of fans in North America. Bettman did this to save the sport, he said. Bettman said that without these fundamental changes to the economic structure the game wouldn't survive.
Now, because they apparently didn't do it right the first time, it seems as though they want to go down that road again. How dare he? The players, the product we love to see every night, deserve better. The fans, whose money and passion drive the sport, deserve better. The restaurant owners and parking attendants and arena vendors and ushers and area hotels and local charities who benefit from the games all deserve better.
Until further notice, Gary, I'll be watching the Knicks.