The future is beyond bright
All the doom-and-gloom surrounding the lockout isn't that
devastating for the NHL.
TORONTO -- In the wake of the NHL's newest Collective Bargaining
Agreement proposal, tabled to the NHLPA last night, I couldn't help
but reflect on the state of the league.
Yes, the NHL seems to have made some solid movement in their
(six-year contract max, up from five; 10% variance, up from 5%;
etc.), but there's still much that needs to be addressed. The NHLPA is
still reviewing it and will speak with its membership later today,
before responding to the NHL.
In the meantime, I'm left pondering the NHL's current condition.
Sponsors are pissed off. Television networks are annoyed. Fans are
disgusted. Team executives, coaches, players and media members are
And while many of the owners are equally ashamed, they're not doing
Think about it.
A significant reason as to why the amount of league-wide revenues has
jumped is because the Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg. As much as
Gary Bettman and the NHL didn't want to admit it, Atlanta was a bad
market for the NHL -- that's not a knock against the fan base, there
were many factors involved in their demise. Getting another Canadian
team on the map was long-overdue and it's proved successful (imagine
how much that'll increase once the team makes the playoffs).
But the return of the Jets is just a fraction of what's to come.
The New York Islanders will be moving into the Barclays Center for the
2015-16 season after signing a 25-year lease agreement in
Heading to Brooklyn not only opens up their fan base, and allows for
several Rangers fans to enter the building, it attracts new players to
their rising team. With John Tavares leading the charge, and the likes
of Ryan Strome, Griffin Reinhart and Nino Niederreiter in the system,
their future looks tremendously bright, which several unrestricted
free agents will take into consideration now that they'll be so
What does that mean? That means increased ticket sales (even though
the total capacity in the Barclays Center is less than that of the
Nassau Memorial Coliseum), increased merchandise sales, increased
sponsorship revenue, and more.
In Phoenix, the Coyotes are a mere formality away from being
officially sold to Greg Jamison's group, Hockey Partners LLC --
providing he has the funds.
On Dec. 21, the City of Glendale signed a new lease management
agreement for Jobing.com Arena, which calls for $320 million to be
paid to Jamison's group over its 20-year term. Jamison now has until
Jan. 31 to close the deal, which is expected.
As a result, the Coyotes will finally be able to move forward without
having to clear roster moves with the NHL. Translation: GM Don Maloney
can actually do his job properly, and given their recent success, he
should be able to add some solid pieces to the roster.
But aside from the on-ice improvements, there are already plans to
change the name of the franchise to the Arizona Coyotes, which should
lead to a new logo and new jerseys. You know what all that means...
increased ticket sales, increased merchandise sales, increased
sponsorship revenue, and more (including State tax benefits).
Another team hoping for similar results is the New Jersey Devils,
hosts of the 2013 NHL Draft, who are on the verge of being sold to
Calgary billionaire Bill Gallacher (first reported in August). The
extent of the sale is not yet clear, but news should begin to hit
local outlets some time in January.
The addition of Gallacher, providing everything moves forward, will
solidify the Devils' financial stability, get them out of debt, and
allow them to remain competitive -- meaning guys like Zach Parise will
never be allowed to leave again.
If my math is correct, that's good news for three more NHL teams.
And with Quebec City and Seattle knocking on the door for a franchise,
and Toronto in the shadows, did you really think the NHL was worried
about losing a couple billion dollars of projected revenue (minus the
more than $800 million in player salaries that will be lost this year
if the season resumes in mid-January)?
The NHL has been on a huge incline since 2004-05. Despite this recent
bump in the road (that's all they view it as), they'll remedy any
issues with their current sponsors and they'll continue to attract new
ones. The fans will return, and the interest in the sport will
continue to grow (yes, you'll stay pissed for a while, but you'll be
back). Next season's Winter Classic between Detroit and Toronto will
be gigantic, the 2015 All-Star Game (presumably in Columbus) will be a
huge spectacle, and the annual Awards Show will continue to attract
bigger and brighter stars.
So as shitty as this lockout has been for most of us, don't think for
a second that the NHL hasn't mapped everything out. They've formalized
Plans A through ZZ. If one thing doesn't work out, it's on to the next
As the NHLPA pieces together its counter-proposal today, we're still a
long way from reaching an agreement on a new CBA.
While he wouldn't comment on last night's offer, NHL Deputy
Commissioner told me this morning there are "no meetings planned at
And there won't be until the main points are ironed out.
The NHL also addressed several new items as part of their proposal,
which I can only assume relates to escrow, international play,
league-wide issues (such as realignment, scheduling, etc.), and that
will be a concern for the Players.
The two sides will continue to talk. The NHLPA could still file its
Disclaimer of Interest on Jan. 2, but that shouldn't halt
In the meantime, the NHL is putting the finishing touches on a 48-game
schedule to start mid-to-late January and they're reaching out to
their sponsors and networks.
As for cries for contraction, stop dreaming. Stop it. It's not going
to happen. Give it a rest. The Nashville Predators, Columbus Blue
Jackets, Anaheim Ducks and Carolina Hurricanes aren't going anywhere.
The Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars are just fine.
The Florida Panthers, well, that might be a different story, but if
they remain competitive, they'll be okay. Otherwise, the NHL knows it
has three cities waiting on the sidelines, and that's accompanied by a
$400 million to $500 million relocation fee -- and that goes into the
You'll see expansion -- yup, I said it -- before you'll see the League
even consider contracting to 28 or 26 teams.
There's a good chance the NHL will grow to 32 teams by the middle
point of the new CBA. And, for argument's sake, if Quebec City and
Seattle are awarded franchises, that's not only between $800 million
to $1 billion in expansion fees (again, going to the owners), that's a
huge increase to Hockey Related Revenue (ticket sales, merchandise
sales, sponsorship, TV deals, etc.). Of course, that's more than 60
new jobs for the Players, so they're happy, too.
At the end of the day, a new CBA will should be reached in the next
two weeks (paperwork and all), upon which the rest of the plan will be put into motion.
Like the NBA's lockout last year (the NHL lockout will run about a
month longer), frustrations will boil over and everyone will forget
about it once the players hit the ice. The League will execute another
attractive marketing campaign, the Stanley Cup will be awarded, Molson
Coors will stop losing $500,000 per week in projected revenues, and
life in the NHL will go onward and upward.
As unnecessary as this lockout truly is, it's not as devastating to
the League as you may think.