The Rangers v. the NHL
Still, it is hard to imagine Dolan getting much support from his peers, even the more well-heeled ones such as the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Philadelphia Flyers, organizations that could probably do better in stand-alone marketing initiatives, as opposed to pooling everything under the NHL umbrella.
Multiple sources indicated that support for Dolan's position was no better than lukewarm — even among organizations that might be considered potential allies — and that the vast majority of teams backed the NHL's attempts at bringing all their new media enterprises under one roof.
And while Duhatschek is likely right in that they are a lone wolf in challenging Gary Bettman and company's plans for web conglomeration, a process Madison Square Garden sees as 'cookie-cuttering' teams' websites, the Rangers are a mighty powerful entity all by their lonesome.
The NHL board of governors' real power base, however, has never been about New York, and it's owners like Jeremy Jacobs and Ed Snider, as well as New Jersey team president Lou Lamoriello, who back Bettman and, generally, what they say goes in hockey circles. And, at the moment, the Bruins', Flyers' and Devils' websites look pretty, well, cookie-cutterish. (As Eric McErlain points out, the Rangers now have two different websites.)
Not that this is just about the web. MSG overlord Jim Dolan reportedly outlined a number of revenue-related grievances when it came to the league in a letter to other NHL governors, something Bettman would have been made well aware of.
The Rangers are a big fish that already conceded on a number of fronts during the lockout (revenue sharing being the foremost) and generate a lot of mostly unshared revenue from a huge cable television deal that simply doesn't exist in any other U.S. market.
And while that isn't in jeopardy here, MSG's charges of antitrust violations remind me of the pact NFL clubs made in the 1960s to pool television revenues for the good of the league, a move that violated antitrust laws at the time. In came the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961, which eliminated legal restrictions and opened the doors for the mass pooling of billions of dollars we now see in that league.
Right now, the NHL can't give away it's combined television rights, but the web is a whole new frontier — albeit one without quite as promising revenue potential. MSG has invested millions in its original site and says such a takeover violates antitrust laws, but when that went down with television more than 40 years ago, they simply changed the law.
Another interesting aside: MSG also owns the New York Knicks, whose site is under league control along with every other NBA franchise.
I'm not sure what the difference is — or if they've been through this fight before.