The big small markets
But too much of anything good can be a problem, and the NHL appears on the brink of a significant dilemma. The rise of the Canadian dollar, which can be partially attributed to the slump of the U.S. dollar, is bound to put several small-market U.S. clubs in a bind.
The CBA uses something called DMA, or designated marketing area, to measure the size of markets for revenue sharing purposes, and "if the Club is in a DMA ... with a value of greater than or equal to 2.5 million households," it is ineligible for revenue sharing funds.
Of the 24 American cities with NHL franchises, this provision excludes the four largest markets: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia. No revenue sharing for the Rangers, the Islanders, Devils, Kings, Ducks, Blackhawks or Flyers.
Dallas, San Jose and Boston are closing in on this marker as well.
A look at the NHL's 21 U.S. markets as ranked by DMA:
1. New York - 7.4 millionThe real small markets in the U.S., using the same DMA designation the league uses to determine its big dogs? Buffalo, Columbus, Nashville, Carolina and Pittsburgh.
2. Los Angeles - 5.6 million
3. Chicago - 3.5 million
4. Philadelphia - 2.9 million
5. Dallas - 2.4 million
6. San Jose - 2.4 million
7. Boston - 2. 4 million
8. Atlanta - 2.3 million
9. Washington - 2.3 million
11. Detroit - 1.9 million
12. Phoenix - 1.8 million
13. Tampa Bay - 1.8 million
15. St. Paul - 1.7 million
16. Miami - 1.5 million
18. Denver - 1.5 million
21. St. Louis - 1.2 million
22. Pittsburgh - 1.2 million
28. Raleigh - 1.0 million
30. Nashville - 0.97 million
32. Columbus - 0.91 million
50. Buffalo - 0.64 million
Those, however, aren't the league's welfare cases (aside from those plucky Predators, of course).
Revenue sharing paid out big time to Music City, sure, but Washington has had a finger in the pot two years running. St. Louis, a bigger city than four Canadian markets, received roughly $10-million after both 2005-06 and 2006-07.
Phoenix, Atlanta and Florida, well, they enjoy the league-sanctioned dole as much as anyone.
Canadian markets aren't categorized using DMA but rather something known as BBM, which makes direct comparisons of market size difficult. In terms of population, Toronto is in the Philadelphia/Dallas range, Montreal with Detroit/Washington/Phoenix, and Vancouver compares to maybe Denver or Pittsburgh. The other three Canadian cities would all be in Nashville territory, comparatively, in a measure like DMA.
Which is why "small market" isn't a universal phrase when it comes to hockey, not when a place like Atlanta, among the largest 60 or so cities in the world, fits the description.
At least in the NFL, revenue sharing benefits the little guy, the Jaguars, Packers and Bills, with the Cowboys and Redskins ponying up big time to keep them in the game. That makes logical sense — unlike hockey, where small towns are the moneymakers and Ottawa props up a metropolis like Phoenix that can't get its act together, 11 years in.
It all reminds me of a great quote from NHL player agent Ian Pulver:
"The fact that the Edmonton Oilers are a revenue-share provider, and considered a big market in the National Hockey League ... that doesn't make sense to me," Pulver said. "The Edmonton Oilers are a small market who should forever receive money in any professional sports league. When the Edmonton Oilers become a revenue-share recipient for the right reasons, that will be a signal that the league is headed in the right direction."It's not going to happen. Not in the NHL. Not when, in the U.S., "small market" oftentimes acts as a stand in for "big market, indifferent to hockey."
Why not call it like it is?