Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Isle of Capri-ciousness

Full credit to my friend, Peter Evans, for that witty headline, and also for these thoughts on today's announcement that the slot license the Pittsburgh Penguins were hoping for was granted to a different party:

Reading all this Penguins-related stuff, I find the NHL very distasteful today.

The league clearly wants that team to stay in Pittsburgh. So do I, I suppose — I just resent that there wasn't the same dedication 10 years ago in the 'Peg or Q.C. or even Hartford for that matter. It's like Tom Benjamin pointed out a few weeks ago: Nashville got $14-million (U.S.) in revenue-sharing money last year. If Winnipeg were given a $14-million headstart every year, do you think they'd still be able to survive and ice a competitive team? I think it's a no-brainer.
It's true. And we all know why.

Regardless of how badly the league punts teams around various unsuitable American markets, shunning the Canadian public that waves fistfuls of dollars at anything hockey, this country is always going to keep tuning in. We can't help it.

Even the cantankerous Benjamin, who swore off supporting the product when it was no longer to his liking, is back watching the game (if only to complain about it), and so, too, are all of the other pundits who have wailed and moaned about how the game needs to be improved, teams need to be moved and various other modifications we've all heard time and again.

Because, as much as we'd all like to see some changes in how the NHL is run, Canada is in for the long haul, no questions asked. It is our game, one of those funny Canadianisms that really does set the country apart from the American behemoth, and we'll support it until the bitter end.

Even if it means taking it in the teeth from Gary Bettman and company all the while.

As per usual, Eric Duhatschek has a beat on why exactly Bettman and the NHL were so desperate to keep Jim Balsillie away from the Penguins, even if it meant an uncertain future for the franchise:
If commissioner Gary Bettman could be made to answer a single question under oath, penalty of death and/or the influence of truth serum — does letting Sidney Crosby play in Canada do anything for the National Hockey League from a marketing perspective — how do you think he'd respond?
The answer, I'd bet, is that he'd probably emit some sort of a high-pitched squeal and deflate instantaneously. It's one of those questions that neither he, nor any other league exec, will ever touch with a 10-foot pole, but that Canadians, unequivocally, know the answer to.

Crosby in a land already utterly 'puck crazy' does absolutely nothing for Bettman's vision of the NFL on ice.

Back to Duhatschek:
It shouldn't be surprising that the NHL's position on the sale of the Penguins was fairly consistent. They wanted any prospective buyer to examine not just Plan A or Plan B to keep the team in the city, but also Plans C to Z, before they finally raised the white flag of surrender.
And even then, it would be 'Viva Los Vegas' long before the NHL would ever look towards its biggest fans, north of the 49th.

We're not going anywhere.



At 5:42 p.m., December 20, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hockey fans in Pittsburgh deserve better than this. So does Mario.

At 6:00 p.m., December 20, 2006, Anonymous Robert Cleave said...

The joke of it is Winnipeg, even with a small rink, would still likely generate more revenue than Nashville, so they wouldn't get 14 million. Your larger point about Canadians marking out for the NHL is spot on, and that's what keeps Bettman et al chasing the American fantasy. The fact is Americans have seen hockey for 40 plus years on TV, and they don't care. Moving a team to KC or Houston or Vegas won't do a damn thing for the NHL's profile, and local TV, which is the real media revenue producer Stateside, won't be that lucrative in those markets. Potential's nice, but the potential in the untapped US markets is mostly the potential for no one to care.

At 6:00 p.m., December 20, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sub in "CFL" for "NHL" and "Ottawa" for "Pittsburgh." I'm just sayin'.

At 6:01 p.m., December 20, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hockey fans in Pittsburgh, to the contrary, are getting what they have given.

This refers more to those who have stayed away in droves rather than those who have supported the team through tougher times.

If attendance is not there, no matter how many Plan B's are enacted, it won't matter.

It's time to stop trying to sell hockey to those not fervantly supporting.

Sell it where it is already being bought.

It's really unfortunate, no one wants to see teams move.

How many more rabbits can Mario pull out of his hat?

My biggest question in all of this is, if the Pens on ice future is so bright, why doesn't mario and his group unequivocally commit to owning and nurturing it themselves?

Do they know something they are not telling?

At 6:57 p.m., December 20, 2006, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

At this point, I have little sympathy for the Penguins. As far as I can tell, they want someone else to build them a building they can profit off of gratis. Yeah, these ridiculous deals happen all the time, but usually the team has to contribute something. The Penguins seem to have been rejecting any plan that requires them to pony up anything.

Given that I think Pittsburgh can be a decent hockey city, and that the Penguins are well placed going forwards, anyone that couldn't make a profit after contributing a large chunk of the arena price should be summarily dismissed from ownership as incompetent.

With regards to the Duhatschek article, the problem here isn't that Bettman is trying to put teams where they'll make the most money. The problem is that I think he's misidentified which markets those are. What he should be looking for are locations where teams will be contributing to the revenue sharing pool, not drawing from it. If I'm, say, Mike Illitch, I'm ready to blow a gasket over the fact that the CBA is making me pay money to teams that aren't willing to do the sort of ground up rebuilding of a franchise that he undertook in the 1980s, but that Bettman seems to be actively trying to maximize the number of other teams I have to subsidize.

At 10:11 p.m., December 21, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In case you are curious, here is the most accurate article I have read on how the Majestic Star was awarded the Pittsburgh Slots license...

At 7:07 a.m., December 22, 2006, Anonymous Julian said...

I don't understand the people ripping Duhatschek for the article in the comments section of the globe. He's not saying that what Bettman wants (keeping SC in the US) is justified, he's saying that's simply the way it is. I don't understand how people could possibly missinterpret that, he seems to be blaming Bettman rather subtly in the article... at least to me.

At 12:37 p.m., December 22, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In regards to the comment from "Reality Check," you should probably stick to covering about Canadian teams.

Sure, the fans weren't the most supportive, but obviously a lot of things have changed since the lockout. At 92%, it's 16th in the league. It will only go up. If teams with low attendance need to move, by your logic the Devils should be looking to go as well...

And for those that want to talk about attendance, I ask you this: how much money in today's game is earned through luxury boxes?

This is why a new arena is crucial: the Igloo has no luxury boxes. And with the Pens certain to be playoff contenders if not this season, then by next, it's necessary to have these boxes to offer for the playoffs.

"My biggest question in all of this is, if the Pens on ice future is so bright, why doesn't mario and his group unequivocally commit to owning and nurturing it themselves?"

My question is this: if Canada is the home of hockey, why are people crying for the Pens to move there when they could try to get their own expansion teams?

At 2:57 p.m., December 26, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am tired of the Canadians crying that they are the only true hockey fans. Get over yourselves. Wheather you choose to accept it or not, there are passionate hockey fans around the world. Do you people actually believe the NHL would be better off if it was played only in Canada. I love the sport of hockey and want to see it grow and to think that a player like Crosby in Kansas City would not draw in new fans is just ignorant. It worked with Wayne in Hollywood. This is not to say I think there should be an NHL team in every American city, but the Canadian model for the NHL would have it only in Canada with Canadian players and no American money. You tell me how that would make a better product.


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