Thursday, September 16, 2004

The Death of Professional Hockey?

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman announced on Sept 15, 2004 that the league was imposing a lockout of the players association effective Thursday, Sept 16, 2004.

The league lost $224 million US last season, and has lost $1.8 billion over the last 10 years.

Will the NHL be the first major professional sports league to be wiped out? Let's face it, Major League Baseball can't be far behind. Both sports suffer from dwindling attendance, shrinking revenues, a majority of teams playing at a loss, and all around fan disgust at the current structure. Why can't these leagues, and I probably should lump the NBA in there too, take a page from the NFL? They have a salary cap arrangement, and ultimately this has proven a boon to the sport....it's called parity. In the NFL it is getting more and more difficult for the pundits to predict Superbowl contenders. It's actually fun to look at how abysmal their predictions have been over the last 4-5 years.

The other leagues need this. They need the parity-inducing structure of a salary cap...not necessarily a cap on a individual player's salary, but a team cap. For instance, the team cap could be $20 million US per year. If you want to pay one player $10 million per year, then you only have an additional $10 million for the rest of your team. Fantasy sports leagues have been doing this for years. The NFL has enforced that for what, 10 years now? And it has, overall, improved the league.

Fans can force this issue by refusing to attend games (for hockey, whenever they start back, the league and the players association WOULD get the message if the stands were empty). Unfortunately, sports fans aren't the sharpest knives in the drawer, especially hockey fans, and they will pour back in all their idolating glory once their "heroes" return to the ice. Not me though. Unless there's a cap, I won't even watch a game on TV. I stopped watching baseball, and I will stop watching hockey.

On the topic of watching sports: I work in an area with rabid hockey fans...and none of them spoke of the World Cup games. In fact, few of us, if any, watched more than a period or two. I wonder what the ratings were?