Wednesday, July 13, 2005

NHL Deal On Wednesday - Weird Huh?

Hey to anyone checking in; from the usual suspects who know that Wednesdays here highlight some of the more "interesting" sports stories (read weird, silly and downright stupid) to those who have are visiting for the first (and hopefully not last) time.

I must have gotten 20 emails at work Wednesday - "A Done Deal" - "They're Baaaaack" - "See You In September" - and because it was me and my email "Leafs Suck - and now they are really gonna suck" (Hey, I was born a Leaf fan...and that's not going to change).

So Canada rejoices with the news that the deal is done - I'm sure some of our friends down south are also jumping for joy (I can think of a member of Leaf Nation in Boston that might be smiling). I can't join in the festivities - I'm still disgusted with the business of the NHL, on so many levels:
  • from the owners who cancelled an NHL season to protect themselves from their own stupidity - I guess the millions of dollars they paid in legal fees will be recouped over the life of the agreement...from the fans of course, even with the small reduction in ticket prices at most areans this year (according to today's Toronto Star).

  • to the players, who let a season go down the toilet because of their "principles" and for the "good of the future players of the NHL" - only to fold and admit to being beaten down by the owners, "We didn't know they were so rich - We didn't think they'd go on this long - We didn't think they were this strong" in the "word" of Dr. Evil "Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight". What in the hell were you thinking? You are dealing with billionaires!

  • to the spokepersons for both sides - I stopped watching reports when I couldn't take listening to Ted Saskin and Bill Daly spouting the same crap over and over - funny how they clued in a few weeks ago that they should acknowledge the fans.
So while hockey fans rejoice - I submit this for your consideration. We weren't even considered in this multi-billion dollar deal...imagine that. In any other business, organizations would conduct market research, talk to the consumer, cater to their customers. Not the NHL though - they just took for granted that fans would continue to pay the tab without balking or batting an eye...and while that will probably be the case, I think this deal is the beginning of the end for true fans of the NHL. We are going to see an NHL where teams have five or six core players and the rest are interchangeable - players will be shuffled around, released, traded, or just unsigned because of cap restrictions. The NHL will attempt to cover this up, deflect attention from this by instituting a series of rule changes "to make the game more appealing to the fans." They are talking about everything from - reducing the size of goalie equipment, to shootouts, to 3-3 in overtime, to having the refs call everything, to taking out the red line, get the point.

NHL owners and players are counting on the fact that the fans will buy this, the product won't change, the problems with the game won't change, the attendance problems won't change, the lack of interest (television wise) won't change - it can't change, the same players will be there (albeit on different teams), the same coaches will be there (Jacques Lemaire can coach any team to be like the Wild), the same systems (the trap or the left wing lock, or "good positional hockey") will still be employed to allow lesser players to play on equal ground with better players.

The only thing that will change is that billionaires will now be guaranteed that they will make money. This deal tells me that the NHL is selling logos, emblems, team crests - banking on the fact that fans won't care who is wearing their beloved colours, just as long as those jerseys and benches are being filled by someone. The NHL players - the product - are secondary...the owners plan all along was to make players see that they were expendable - the old adage, "if you don't want to play for X number of dollars...there will be 20 guys dying to take your place". This deal is about one thing and one thing only... E-X-P-A-N-S-I-O-N.

Don't laugh, the NHL keeps talking about generating interest in the US...but think about it for a second. If they generate some interest (which I doubt), what better way to get rich, deep pockets to buy into the NHL than with a guarantee that you will make money on your investment with a league that operates under "cost-certainty". I know this sound crazy, maybe you think its downright stupid - but consider this, these geniuses are the guys that put hockey teams in "hockey hotbeds" like Phoenix, Miami, North Carolina. Canadian fans will know that potential investors in Winnipeg and Quebec City had gone on record saying that they could support an NHL team with a salary cap of $35 million (and that was BEFORE our dollar started catching up to the greenback). And if Winnipeg and Quebec City get franchises, what's to stop other cities in the US with a bigger population base? Tulsa comes to mind, so does Houston, they have both had hockey you can bet the NHL will go back for more (see Atlanta).

You think they aren't going to push the NHL for a franchise?
You think NHL owners would balk at some free expansion money? (starting price now will probably be in the $100 - $150 million range)

Contrary to what is being said - "making the game more appealing for the fans" and all that other crap - the NHL is trying to pass off mediocrity as parity.
  • If they can get the fans used to a league that is more sideshow than about the essence of the game (selling it to markets that have no history with or connection to hockey) rules changes that are more reminiscent of the shinny we played as kids...or lacrosse;

  • If they can get fans to buy a league that has five or six very good players on every team instead of the teams with 3 very good lines and 2 defensive pairings;

  • If they can get fans to accept the fact that every team is equally "adequate" as opposed to being good and competitive...
They win - they crush the NHLPA and the pull one over on the fans of the NHL. Lets see what the NHL looks like in September - after the free-agent frenzy that is expected to happen...the league will be forever changed and not in a good way.

I wonder what Hazel Mae's thoughts on this issue would be. :-)

Ok...after two nights of trying to get this all down...I know I've forgotten some strokes of genius...but I'll get them back on here at a later date. Oh think it's a coincidence that the NHL and the PA agreed to a deal on a Wednesday? What the people will do to get some "air time" on Thoughts of Hazel Mae.

Song of the Day on Hazelspeeps - in honour of the Owners getting the deal they wanted.

Hush - LL Cool J (chorus only)

Hush little baby wanna let you know
This is how its gonna go
If you wanna come and play
Come and do it my way my way my way


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