Make it Seven a new league?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A few days ago I picked up the book "A Hundred Years of Glory" from the library. It's about the Canadiens (duh) and it goes through their history. Of the many interesting bits in the book, one that caught my interest was the creation of the NHL. I'm sure I had heard about it before, but this was really the first time that I was paying attention. Basically, Eddie Livingstone, who owned a team in Toronto, got into a dispute with the four other teams in the NHA. Instead of suspending Livingstone from their league, the other owners created a new league - the NHL - and excluded Livingstone.

After reading the latest in this whole Phoenix soap opera - in which the BOG voted 26-0 against Balsillie owning a NHL team with the Bruins and Wild stating that they don't want Basillie to own a team because they don't think he is trustworthy - I have to ask: Why can't we just create our own league and leave out Bettman and all these teams that are failing epically because they're in places where the majority of people dont' care? Why do we have to put up with this crap from Bettman and co?

Bettman seems to be trying to create a hockey version of the MLB and the NBA. The only problem is, it's not working very well because well, hockey isn't particularly big in places like Phoenix. The situation with these teams - which isn't limited to Phoenix, but is definitely highlighted by this franchise - is getting ridiculous at this point. There is no reason why teams who are doing well financially (particularly those here in Canada) should be trying to pay life support for floundering teams in the desert or on the beach. And there is no reason why they should even be in that market when someone is offering to spend a lot of money to move them to a city in which people might actually want to go watch them (shocker, I know).

A report in 2008 has the six Canadian teams generating a third of the league's ticket revenue. Another report from the year before, had the Leafs paying up between 9 and 10 million to the league's revenue sharing fund (which is apparently the most of the Canadian teams). So Canadian teams pay to keep the Phoenix and Atlantas teams alive and what do we get for it? We get to watch our money go down the drain as these teams lose millions of a year. We get to watch as the players that we spend years developing get to play for these crappy teams who wind up dead last. And we get to hear people tell us that it's not financially feasible to have teams in Canada.

If Canada can have it's own (American/Canadian) football league then I think Canada can definitely support it's own hockey league. Sure, it'd be be smaller. Sorta. We could add teams in Winnepeg, Hamilton and Quebec City among other places and once Gary's Sunbelt League fails, then we'd just absorb the not faily teams. We'd probably have way less money to spend on players (which is fine. Who getting paid 10 million dollars a year makes you a better player?). But we'd have people who cared. We would have people filling the buildings. And in this perfect hypothetical scenerio, we wouldn't have another version of Gary Bettman.

Look, I get that there's a lot of logistics into forming a seperate league but it's something to ask least talk about for the heck of it. I'm just getting seriously fed up of Bettman and his stupid ideas. And if the BOG wasn't stuck inside Bettman's pocket, then I'd say they should stand up to him as well.

Edit: Here's a lovely rant by number31 on the same topic. And Preds on the Glass has an interesting "nightmare" scenerio for Bettman.


Number31 said...

Also with our own league, we could put back the good rules and weed out the bad say put in no-touch icing already if they're so tired of players getting run down, and rules against headshots.

I'm not a big football fan, but I do enjoy the CFL more. (Also I love saying "BEN CAHOOOOOON"). It doesn't take forever to play, and it's like pure offense (which was why the 25-0 shutout the Als handed the Argos the other night was pretty damn awesome). Nothing is more boring than watching giant men clobber each other in a stalemate... Not that hockey should be pure offense but hey, if the CNHL can allow the goalies to wander into the corners, I'm all for it!

Junior hockey teams sell out, especially in Ontario. (Just have to watch a Kitchener/London game to see proof of that, and it's like a Bruins/Habs rivalry to boot). A CNHL would do just fine.

Grrrreg said...

Well well well... you're getting ambitious. First you wanted to own the Coyotes to relocate them, and now you want to set up your own dissident league! :)

Seriously though, I know your scenario is hypothetical, but let’s discuss it anyway. This is not something I'd really be pleased with. I know some franchises are unsuccessful, but don't you think the cure is worse than the actual problem? What happens with viable teams like Philadelphia, Dallas, San Jose, Anaheim, Colorado, New Jersey, or the American Original 6? And while I agree teams a Canadian league would probably have no trouble attracting or retaining fans, I wonder what would happen with the sponsors and the TV deals. And most importantly, with the players. There wouldn't be as many teams, and as you said yourself, there probably would be less money to spend on players. If the new league doesn't manage to be perceived as the new undisputed elite league in North America immediately, it would fail, because the best players would choose other options.

On the other hand, what's so awful about the current situation? Sure it can be argued that some Canadian cities deserve a franchise, and that some southern franchises have failed. Yeah, the richest teams are paying to help the troubled ones. So what? Is it really that terrible? It certainly doesn't prevent the Canadian teams to be successful and to make money. It doesn't prevent them to sign good free agents. It doesn't prevent the playoffs to be exciting. Basically, the fact that the franchises in Atlanta, Florida and Phoenix are in trouble does not prevent me from enjoying hockey at all.

But I think I have a bit of a different perspective on this, as someone watching this from far away. I'm not Canadian, and I don't have this feeling that hockey is being stolen from me and from my country, to be transplanted in places where they don't care. I know this is not quite what you’re saying, but I still feel there are undertones of something like this in your post. It’s something that seems pretty widespread on blogs and media from Canada, and I don’t really like this rhetoric. I understand the significance of hockey for Canada, and I understand (and share) the dissatisfaction with what Bettman has done. But the situation is not that bleak.

Oh, and who would keep the Stanley Cup in your scenario? ;)

Eternal Pessimist said...

Grrreg - I never said there wasn't huge logistical problems! Of course the whole TV sponsors thing, draft picks, the Stanley Cup (which I would keep, obviously *g*) etc, etc, etc are a all huge issues. Without a doubt. It's all hypothetical and wishful thinking, right?

Teams that are viable in the US can stay in their league. Or they can join us. And I do believe I heard reports that Dallas owes plenty of money.

I seriously do not understand why there are teams in places that people don't care about the sport. We lost our baseball team because it couldn't compete with the American teams (the Expos are now the suckiest team on earth in Washington). We lost two NHL franchises because they couldn't compete with other teams when there was no salary cap. Bettman didn't have a problem letting the Nordique leave for Colorado. But when a situation arises that could have another team in the sunbelt leave for Canada, he has a issue. He kicks up a fuss and starts saying that it's feasible to have NHL team in these cities.

I have to be honest with you, you're right when you say that there are "you stole my sport" connotations from the Canadian media and from Canadian bloggers. There is. And I'm guilty of it myself. I feel like there is a certain... Americanization of a sport that has been cultivated in Canada. I feel like Bettman and co really wouldn't care at all if all the Canadian teams left Canada for the USA. I'm not sure if Canadians feel like there is a certain lack of respect coming from our neighbors to begin with. I'm really not sure where these sentiments come from and I'm not saying that they're right necessarily.

But you have to understand that Canadians are not very blatant about their patriotism. We're not like a lot of countries who's citizens go around saying "We're proud to be (insert nationality here)". But the one thing we do get patriotic about is our hockey. I really think it's the most obvious thing that Canadians will bond together over. There is this underlying feeling that it's our sport. And when people like Bettman come around and start acting like our teams don't matter or our country can't support an NHL franchise, it makes us mad..

This call for another post XP give me a few hours and I'll have something up.

YourHabs said...

Excellent book, I got it on sale at Walmart and I learned so much that I didn't know.

Eternal Pessimist said...

I need to buy that book now, I think. Or steal it from the library =p

Number31 said...

The Stanley Cup predates the NHL! So do our Habs, actually. Woo!

Post a Comment