It’s not you. It’s me.
We’ve had some fun times, locally. The 1991 North Stars playoff run? Classic (I’ll continue our agreement not to discuss Game Six, however). And that 2003 Minnesota Wild team? Ah, good times.
We even overcame some painful memories, like when you left with that Alberta shopping mall developer for Dallas. I was hurt. But then I realized that a former booster for the North Stars was right when she said: “When [Norm Green] came here, he said, ‘Only an idiot could lose money on hockey in Minnesota.’ Well, I guess he proved that point.”
Since you came back it’s been nice. Not the same, but nice.
But as I said, it’s not you, it’s me. I just can’t take what will likely be a second lost season in nine years. Especially with both sides of your lockout seemingly unwilling to even sit in the same room with a federal mediator and salvage, ala 1994-95, a condensed season and the Stanley Cup:
With the hockey season hanging in the balance, Saturday could prove to be a pivotal day on all fronts. The sides have less than a week to reach a new collective bargaining agreement to save what would likely be a 48-game hockey season….
The players’ association will conclude a two-day vote among its members at 6 p.m. Saturday that will determine whether the union’s executive board will again have the authority to declare a disclaimer of interest.
If the vote passes, as expected, the disclaimer can be issued, and the union would dissolve and become a trade association. That could send this fight to the courts and put the season in jeopardy. The disclaimer would allow players to file individual antitrust suits against the NHL.
Ok, maybe it’s a little you.
Having conceded the necessity of a salary cap after the last strike in 2004-05, the cap has risen from $39 million in 2005 to what will either be $60 or $65 million in 2013. That’s more than a 12% increase every year. And it’s not exactly that the NHL has been booming in popularity or revenue. The Toronto Maple Leafs rank as the NHL’s most valuable franchise at $1 billion with $200 million in revenue generated each year. Solid numbers, to be sure. But paltry in comparison to other major American sports. The NFL’s Dallas Cowboys bring in $500 million each year for a league with a cap of $120 million. The NBA’s New York Knicks generate $244 million each year with a “soft cap” of $58 million – and that’s in a league where 14 of the teams are currently losing money. 12 of the 30 NHL teams are ending up in the red. Even the mightly NFL, supposedly the pater familias of sports business, has three teams losing money.
At least the NFL and NBA have strong TV viewership. The NHL saw the weakest TV ratings for the Stanley Cup in years, despite having two of the largest television markets represented in the series. In that context, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman must be a negotiating genius to get NBC to agree to a 10-year, $2 billion TV deal. Sure, it’s a pittance compared to MLB’s $3 billion, 7-year deal or the NFL’s $3 billion a year contract, but compare numbers. The 2010 Stanley Cup finals had their best ratings in 36 years with 14 share of the TV audience. That’s only a few hundred thousand more viewers than the average audience for a Sunday night NFL game which has a 12.9 share.
In short, among the few who will care if yet another NHL season is lost will be NBC’s executives. Don’t count me among the rest.
Sure, I thought perhaps I’d give you another chance. You almost had me with the Zach Parise and Ryan Suter signings, until I realized that not unlike Kevin Garnett’s contract years ago, the signings represent exactly why your league is in decline and locked out. I can’t continue worrying about someone who is so self-destructive.
So goodbye, NHL. I hope you find someone who accepts you despite your many, many flaws. I hear Canada’s single right now.
ADDENDUM: Like the jilted lover who can’t accept being rejected, the NHL returns – at only the cost of half the season:
Rich Chere of the Newark Star-Ledger reports some details:
Deal to end NHL lockout tentative with 10-year CBA (opt-out after 8 years), 7-year contract limit (8 for own players) and $64.3 M cap ’13-14.
That’s right: After the NHL asked for a $60 million cap, the players got the League to move all the way to $64.3.
Even the NHL’s proposed $60 million cap is frankly too high. The $64.3 million cap would currently place 22 teams under the limit (and the cap, of course, is a limit, not a minimum) and force 8 teams to shed payroll – including your Minnesota Wild. All this in a league were nearly 1/3rd of the teams are financially struggling.
The end result? The length of the CBA (10 years) probably means an increased exodus of teams from the US to Canada, as we just saw last year with the Atlanta Thrashers becoming the reincarnated Winnipeg Jets. The NHL’s 90’s mistake of expansion in southern US markets is slowing coming back to bite them. Moving some of the teams north would probably be the best economic decision but only further the NHL’s regional appeal. Not the NHL has learned this lesson yet – the American cities proposed for expansion include decidedly non-hockey markets like Houston and Las Vegas. We may see an NHL franchise contract before this CBA expires, which while being a PR letdown, might actually be what’s best for the league.