Sunday, September 2, 2012

What purpose do NHL Owners serve?

This is just another post of me, a fan and Devils season ticket holder, bitching about the threat of another lockout (the 3rd in the time that I've been an NHL fan, and the 3rd in the time that Gary Bettman has been NHL Commissioner).

I was taking a timeout from watching tennis on Friday, reading some tweets coming across the wire about the breakdown of talks between the NHL Owners association and the NHLPA. And I started to get a bit angry. I had to suppress that anger a bit, since I was out at the USTA Tennis Center and it wasn't the time. But I did have one thought. Maybe I'm off-base here, but I tweeted this on Friday...

Let me explain my thinking. The biggest thing that I've been hearing in regards to the CBA negotiations is the percentage of revenue split between the owners and players. I keep saying that it should be fixed at 50/50, because without one side, the other side can't really exist. Then in some of my re-channeled frustration, I started thinking, "what would happen if the owners weren't there? could there still be a league?" We know that if the players aren't playing in the NHL, then there is no league. But what if there were no owners? What purpose do they actually serve here?

Someone, probably a combination of the league and its 30 owners, gets revenue from ticket sales, name/logo licensing (jerseys, t-shirts, nick nacks, etc), advertising, and media (mostly television, but there's probably some money from radio and maybe other forms of media). Shouldn't that be enough to pay off the players and run the hockey operations (such as team expenses, arena lease, scouting, office staff, etc.)? I don't know what the total revenue for the league is, nor do I know what the average team costs would be. But doesn't it seem like the revenue should cover the other costs?

Let me think through this radical idea. What if the league were responsible for running all 30 teams (maybe with an oversight committee with representatives from all 30 clubs/markets) that pays salaries to everybody and collects all the revenue. Since you don't have 30 owners funding the league, salaries can't get absurdly high because a) the money really isn't there to pay the players at the absurdly high salaries, and b) because you aren't going to have the league competing with anyone over salaries (at least not until the KHL gets involved) like you have with teams going after a free agent. Some may call that "collusion". Maybe it violates some Anti-trust clause. I'm not a lawyer, so I won't try to argue those points. It's just an idea. Ugh, but then you have 1 league instead of 30 teams trying to grab money from the players (and fans), and it doesn't eliminate the fundamental dispute that we have.

Let me go back to my original question. What if there were no owners? The revenue streams would fund the 30 teams (I could go on about there being too many teams, but that's a whole other post) and league's operations, and that includes players' salaries, as they do today (right?). Then why is there then a need to pay off anyone else (such as an owner investing additional funds in order to try to get a return on that investment)? Especially a collection of people who want over half of the league's revenue. It's an investment. Pay everyone off and hope you make money.

Now, this doesn't in any way solve any of the other issues such as what is revenue, the salary cap, how long before you can be a free agent, etc. Maybe I didn't solve anything here. But I'm clearly not too happy with the NHL's owners these days.

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