Cherry-Picking the NHL: The Real Deal Behind the Bain Offer

Sounds like what we hockey fans need and want. Dump the NHL Dump the red line. Go to internation ice surfaces and rules. Go to a world play-off.

Posted by Lou Issel at March 4, 2005 11:36 AM


Who really cares about the NHL? Player salaries are huge for what? A lousy game. Gretsky says he couldn't play today with the game being as it is.

What surprises me about Pro sports is that they keep selling tickets, and guys still pay for people they despise to make millions, but the value of sports seems to go down every year. Since it is only about money now, who bothers to remember anything fondly about it for long?

I suppose lots do, but even so, it seems psychicly dead. It has no soul even though it's still popular. There is a sense, I think, that guys love sports in about the same way they love beer commercials. You drink the beer, enjoy the spectacle a bit, and then just piss it all out after getting a buzz.

People didn't just used to love sports, they loved the Game itself. There was something about Baseball, for example, that the whole country seemed to love and respect. Now, it's just a few who care. There is so little to admire in the men or their maner.

Posted by mark butterworth at March 4, 2005 12:09 PM

Those a great points and in the main I agree with them.

What you leave out however is the gambling aspect. Take that away and sports vanishes.

Of course, the role that gambling now plays in sports and the interest in it just amplifies your overall take on it.

You're right about Baseball especially... in a way it was the last to go. As for corruption, egos, and general bad behavior, don't even get me started on Basketball. Football would be as bad but it doesn't go on as long.

Posted by Gerard Van Der Leun at March 4, 2005 12:36 PM

Just a couple of quick thoughts - hockey fans are among the most passionate in the world. They might not be numerous and hockey might be a boring sport to many Americans but the hockey fans would support the new league. Hell the NHL got over $2.1 billion in revenues last year and that was with lousy management.

As far as gambling - if the Bain folks make it a world wide operation - the London bookies would help out there.

The one other big revenue kicker that is being overlooked is a public offering. Once teams and power is consolidated - the Bain folks could make a public offering and really rake in the cash. Hockey fans wouldn't buy based upon projections - they would buy to hang the stock certificates on their wall over the TV.

Posted by chris at March 4, 2005 1:15 PM

A lot of food for thought. Very interesting. This would be a great discussion over about 5-6 beers.

GVDL-How much gambling takes place re: hockey. There is fantasy football/basketball, rotisserie baseball, but the market for hockey seems weak to me. (The group I belong to couldn't get even 3 people out of 30 to commit, even before the strike).

Another thought--it would appear that the demand for hockey is fairly inelastic. You either love hockey or ignore it. There aren't a lot of converts. If you accept that premise, there's still going to be a negative cash flow problem regardless of who owns the teams.

I think the NHLPA needs to accept reality. The NHL isn't as popular as the NFL. So why should they expected to be paid higher then an NFL player?

I would be disappointed to see decades of tradition thrown in the dumper. But I'd be interested in any professional league. (Hell, I was a season ticket holder for the Cincinnati Cyclones).

Posted by JohnO at March 4, 2005 2:04 PM

How would the hold-out teams be "out in the cold"?

Are you suggesting that the Bain group would kick the hold-out teams out of the NHL? That would be a stupid move. Without teams like the Leafs, Bruins and Rangers it would be a second rate league, and would would lose a lot of value.

Posted by Steve C at March 5, 2005 3:49 PM

Steve - what I am suggesting is that Bain needs to acquire just 15 teams to have voting control. The rest of the teams (Maple Leafs, Rangers, Bruins) who don't agree to acquisition will be left to either sell to the new league or create a new one. Some of these teams would cave and sell - I'd guess the Bruins. The rest of the teams would be forced to play themselves or not at all (a new original six if you will).

The Bain league would be the premiere league and the remainders would be just that. I don't think that the owners planned to have this lockout just to get in a bidding war for players (which is what will have to happen to survive). What's the appeal of the Maple Leafs if all the best players play in the Bain league? If the Rangers try to corner all the talent in the original six league - then the others may say screw it and sell out to Bain.

The Bain league can always add new teams in Boston, New York, Toronto, etc. where the teams refuse to sell out.

If Bain gets 15 teams to sell - they hold all the cards.

Posted by chris at March 6, 2005 3:24 PM

But what would Bain do with their voting control? Vote the non-Bain teams that won't sell, out of the NHL?

The non-Bain teams would be the big market, rich teams (Leafs, Red Wings, etc.) that are profitable today. They can afford to pay the best players $8-10 million per year. The smaller market teams that Bain could buy (the majority) can't afford those salaries.

Where do you think the best players would choose to play?

Posted by Steve C at March 6, 2005 10:26 PM

Steve - I think you are wrong in saying that the big market teams are profitable. Philly is owned by Comcast and the Rangers by Cablevision (via MSG). These teams don't show a profit because they undersold their TV rights to the parent company. Other big market teams are in the same boat.

I think the players would be inclined to the Bain group because:

A: If Bain gets voting control - they probably wind up with the NHL name

B: More teams = more players = more peer pressure to play with friends and teammates

C: Bain realizes that the players are the product and would probably be more willing to spend for value. Meanwhile the current owners are trying to hammer down player contracts. If the current owners say "take a 40% cut and we'll talk" and Bain says "we'll honor your current contract" - who do you think the player goes with?

D: Some of the name players would like to stick it to some of the current owners. Do you think any member of the Bruins thinks they owe something to Jeremy Jacobs?

Posted by chris at March 7, 2005 7:00 AM

I agreee that Bain could get the NHL name and maybe even the Stanley Cup, and those are powerful brands, but without the Red Wings, Maple Leafs, Bruins etc. it's a second rate league.

The Flyers and Rangers can hide their profitablity with accounting tricks, but they and the other big revenue teams, with their bigger fanbases, can simply afford to pay players more. These are the teams that sign the huge free agent contracts and would be happy to continue without a salary cap. It's the small market teams that are holding out.

Bain Capital's business is cutting costs in the companies they acquire. The NHL wouldn't be any different. Since player salaries are the number one expense, it's not hard to figure out where they'd start.

All this personal vendetta stuff plays well in the media, but Goodenow and the owners are smarter than that. It's all about the money.

Posted by Steve C at March 7, 2005 12:29 PM