February 17, 2005

The NHL is dead…

I wanted to write something yesterday about the cancellation of the NHL season, but I just couldn’t. This lemming-like march just completed is too damned depressing. Can anyone read this as anything other than Gary Bettman and the owners wanting to break the union, start up with replacement players in 2006 and possibly closing some franchises? The union caved near the end of negotiation and accepted the idea of a salary cap, something they had repeatedly said they would not do. They quibbled a bit with the actual numbers though, and it came down to the NHL offering approximately $43 million in salary cap money versus the union asking for $49 million.

Yep, Bettman is trying to tell people that $6 million per team is what killed this season and put the NHL on life support. Actually, the league has been slowly dying for years now, an over-extended, messed-up mixture of undercapitalized Canadian teams, poorly thought-out Sun Belt expansion franchises and a few wealthy powers like Detroit, New York and Colorado. That the last Stanley Cup featured one of those misbegotten southern teams beating a tiny Canadian team just means you can’t buy smarts.

So, where does it go from here? Will this scale the NHL back down to size? It can’t be any sort of fourth major league. It’s TV ratings have been getting steadily worse, and this won’t help things any. The fact the ESPN gets better ratings from poker than it did its NHL games should be -and is- scary as hell for any hockey fan. With any luck, the money craze will die down, a couple unnecessary southern teams (Nashville and Atlanta, I’m looking at you) will be folded, and the NHL can reclaim its birthright as the Cult Sport.

Posted by Frinklin at February 17, 2005 06:23 PM
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