The NHL and it’s Players Association have recently agreed to come back to play for the world…but are they doing what they need to succeed any longer?
THe NHL is an old league that has been around for a long time in certain areas. It was created in 1917 with just 4 teams and rewards it’s champion with the oldest professional sports trophy in North America, by way of the Stanley Cup. Yet, through it’s cross over star, Wayne Gretzky, the league expanded due to the perceived popularity and belief in it’s self as a major sports league on the American scene. People who are not fans call it a Canadian game, but of the 30 teams 23 are located in the United States. Yet, in America it does not have the foothold that it does it Canada. Of the 4 major sports it has the smallest fan base, the smallest tv revenue, and the least sponsorship.
Despite it’s seemingly limited resources, the average player makes roughly $2.4 million per year which is inline with the MLB at 3.1 million average per player. The MLB has a total of about 750 players and the NHL 690. According to Forbes, the average MLB team has a value of $605 million per franchise in 2012 where as the NHL teams avg value is about $282 million. The numbers don’t add up. The owners think they have NFL teams and the players think they deserve MLB money! The MLB turns a profit near $ 500 Million while the NHL is around the $160 million mark…that’s a stark contrast when you consider the players are making about the same amount of money and the franchise values are well below their counterpart.
It’s not to say the NHL, or hockey in general, is not an exciting sport to watch but at some point the reality will have to set in. Live hockey is exciting but it does not translate to the television. The game is a niche sport, in that, it has pockets of popularity not mass appeal. The recent agreement doesn’t address one big issue…NHL is too big. Much like the NBA, the league has expanded in the belief that it is more popular than it really is. Yet, with tv contracts still prevalent for the NBA, it has a reason to have such a high opinion of itself that the NHL doesn’t. The NHL needs to do two major things, 1. Have a reality check and 2. Contract!
The best way to provide stability to this league is to realize in Detroit, Chicago, or Pittsburgh a team is a good thing but in Phoenix, Tampa, and Atlanta it’s not! The league must embrace it’s oldest and most loyal fans and quit thinking it’s a cool new thing that everyone loves. I have a feeling if I spoke with Gary Bettman he would say they are considering starting a franchise in Mexico. What should they truly be doing? The players and owners should be all for making their league better and the only true way this can be done is to remove between 3-5 teams. This would bolster the league’s rosters and provide much better stability for the league. They could promote stronger teams when talking to sponsors and tv execs. The move south by NHL teams was made on the heels of financial difficulty by teams in Canada including from Winnipeg and Hartford. The experiment has went on long enough…help everyone involved from fans to owners to players. The league will instantly win if it contracted, and yes the NBA should do the same thing.
Not a hockey fan? Well this is the best thing a hockey player has done in recent memory..but it’s not too bad!