NHLPA making a stand

I have said all along that I believe that the next CBA negotiation will be about the players wanting more say in how the league is run so long as their salaries are tied to league revenues. The NHLPA leadership was still in limbo so there was no offiicial response but when the Nashville Predators sale to Jim Balsillie was a go and then a no go there were rumblings of player dissatisfaction at the possible Gary Bettman interference in the sale. The players would have liked the Predators to be moved to Hamilton, as Balsillie would have done, because it would generate far more revenue in Hamiltion than in Nashville or Kansas City or anywhere else. As you all know the players salaries are directly tied to revenue.

This past weekend the NHL announced that four teams (Ottawa, Pittsburgh, New York Rangers and Tampa Bay) are set to begin next season with a couple games in Stockholm and Prague. The NHL also announced that the Rangers would play in an exhibition tournament in Bern Switzerland before heading off to Prague for its games against Tampa. Shortly after the official announcement was made the NHL announced that they are not too happy that the NHL announcing these games without getting permission of the players.

“If they want us to be a true business partner, then they need to include us from the beginning,” Kelly concluded.

That quote from Kelly is very telling. In the last CBA negotiations Gary Bettman, Bill Daly and the owners constantly said they want a partnership with the players. In fact they only wanted a revenue sharing deal and not a real partnership but now the NHLPA is calling them out and saying, ‘if you want a partnership then…’ I have little doubt that the NHLPA will approve the NHL’s plan to play games in Europe to start next season but I think we should all view this as a marker in the sand for where the NHLPA is going under the leadership of Paul Kelly. The NHL will then have to either give up say in league business decisions to the players or else give up significant concessions in the way the salary cap works.

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This article has 2 Comments

  1. I think the only true test of the players feelings on “partnership” will arise if more of them start to walk on the money they’re being paid by the NHL, to join rival leagues.

    The players are not partners in the NHL, nor should they be. The idea that their salaries are tied to league revenues is a slight skew on the concept that companies that earn less can’t afford to pay people the same amount. The main difference is, companies can “downsize”, the NHL doesn’t seem to want to.

    The players union is fighting for higher salaries AND an increased number of jobs for its membership. The two can’t coexist. The number of profitable markets in the NHL is limited, and the fact is, by adding more teams or maintaining the number that currently exist, the quality of play is reduced and drastically hinders the appeal of the games to everyday consumers.

    The other issue is, teams can’t be profitable if player salaries are too exorbitant. If I want to increase league revunue streams, I need to increase the appeal of the league in new markets. The player concept of further entrenchment in regions already saturated doesn’t actually increase league revenue.

    Placing a team in Hamilton WOULD be more profitable than a team in Atlanta, or Pittsburgh, or Nashville… except for a few minor issues:

    1. The addition of a team to the Southern Ontario market would severely reduce revenues of the teams in Buffalo and Toronto. TV revenues would drop due to competition, Ticket sales and merchandise sales would be spread more thinly. Corporate sponsorships would shift. The fact that more tickets would be sold to another franchise may not compensate for the losses that would result in Buffalo and Toronto, especially if both teams felt the need to reduce ticket prices to maintain their fan bases. It might be nice for the consumers, but it wouldn’t necessarily be good for the NHL’s bottom line.

    2. Having NHL franchises in American markets reinforces the creation of children’s and junior leagues in the area, regardless of ticket purchases to the franchise itself.

    The USHL now exists in 7 states in the American Midwest. Iowa alone is home to 5 of the teams. Green Bay, Indianapolis, and Columbus are also relatively major centres featuring franchises.

    The NAHL has multiple teams in 11 states spanning from Alaska to Texas. The US National Development Program featuring as one of them.

    The NCAA currently has 60 division I teams competing for schools ranging from the North East to Alaska, to Alabama.

    As surprising as it may be to Canadians, the number of registered players in the US is catching up to the number in Canada. There are 435,737 registered Americans, and only 543,390 registered Canadians.

    Even if hockey doesn’t register with the AVERAGE American… it doesn’t have to to be relevant as far as the NHL is concerned.

    If more young Americans pick up the game, it will matter more to the League’s growth than the same old same old in Canada.

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