Kukla's Korner

Above the Glass

How much is that Stanley Cup in the window?

Until I started blogging about hockey, I must admit I had no idea what all the trade deadline fuss was about. Now that I’m giving it my undivided attention, I noticed that a lot of teams are trading future picks or considerations for veteran talent. So being a bear of very little trade deadline brain, it made me wonder…why would any NHL team mortgage its future to pay for the present? I think part of it might be a little thing called “hockey related revenue.”

The game: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New York Rangers. 

Why I chose it: Because if it’s French and it wears a C (Vincent Lecavalier) or leads the charge behind the bench (Guy Boucher), I’m in. Period. The end. The Tampa Bay Lightning are the comeback story of the season. Period. The end.

The distraction: The trade deadline, but of course. I don’t have predictions for who will land where and why which team will trade which player or future pick. But I finally understand that the trade deadline is the last chance that GMs have to build the perfect team or at the very least, rebuild a team that is in need of roster repair.

Or it could be this: I’m not a Harvard-trained lawyer, so I don’t claim to actually understand the NHLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement. But that didn’t stop me from reading it just for fun. Among the choice bits is a little thing called Team Payroll Range, which is dependent upon another little thing called Hockey Related Revenue.

Is there anything you can’t make money from?: Among the things from which an NHL club is permitted to derive revenue are:
—regular seasons and playoff gate receipts
—NHL national and international digital broadcasts
—NHL networks
—local cable television broadcast, over the air broadcasts, pay-per-view, satellite and other broadcasts, radio broadcasts
—club internet
—publications
—in-arena novelty sales, non-arena novelty sales
—concessions
—luxury boxes/suites
—club/premium seats
—other revenues: includes things like the sale of game worn jerseys, club or league-branded events such as summer camps, fantasy camps, skills competitions, open practices, mascot appearances and player appearances.

It’s elementary, dear Samantha: The above items include both the regular and playoff season. Now imagine what a deep playoff run or a trip all the way to the Stanley Cup finals means to a team’s bottom line. Aha. More revenue means a bigger payroll range and therefore, the opportunity to recruit better talent in the future, rebuild that beat up old arena, whatever.

It is a business, after all: Now, it’s true that winning the Stanley Cup isn’t just about money and I would never go so far as to say it is. First and foremost, it’s about things that can’t be bought: pride, honor, prestige, achievement and being part of history.  But at the end of the day, the NHL is a business. And the Stanley Cup is the biggest business of all.

Moral of the story: Only three of the trades that have happened so far were made by the last two Stanley Cup champions, who can probably still generate enough revenue from their most recent victories to last at least the rest of the season. Among the teams who are already busy trading in advance of the deadline? Florida, Nashville, Ottawa, Toronto, Atlanta, Carolina, Anaheim, St. Louis and Colorado. All of which have either not made it to the playoffs in recent years, or who were eliminated early. Hello long summer, bye bye fans and the revenue that goes with them.  I read somewhere about a hockey fan who said “we don’t want cheesy trinkets, we don’t want free baseball hats, we just want a winning team.” It’s true, isn’t it? For fans, it’s about being part of something bigger than ourselves, having pride in where we live and in being hockey fans, and in plain old having a good time. But for the business that is the NHL, a winning team is about more than pride and glory: it’s also why fans go to the rink, park, buy tickets, buy jerseys, buy the luxury suite for their company, and so forth. Translation: winning = earning.

Go ahead, laugh at me. I’ll wait here: Well, ok maybe I’ll make a few predictions. But don’t say I didn’t warn you that I might be a tad off base, being a beginner and all. My prediction for teams who will be the busiest on deadline day are those that are sitting just outside the magic numbers they need to make the playoffs, those that haven’t even seen a Stanley Cup since bellbottoms were in fashion, any team with a new owner, and any whose previous glory is in danger of fading from view altogether. That being said, I’m in for a busy day for Buffalo, Dallas, Columbus and the above named teams.

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About Above the Glass

Welcome to Above the Glass, a definitive anti-expert’s guide to hockey. I started blogging in 2009 as part of an effort to learn all 87 rules in the NHL Rulebook in 107 days before the 2010 Olympics, 30 years after I discovered the sport. You can peruse the archival results here. Growing up in Arizona, I didn’t even know hockey existed until February 22, 1980, when the USA played Russia in the Olympics. And just like that, the game of the century changed my life. I still don’t quite understand the icing rule or which faceoff circle goes with what offense, but I do know that every aspect of hockey has something to teach us about life. That’s what you’ll find here, along with my unadulterated passion for the game.

I live in Portland, Oregon, home of the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks. I invite anyone who wants to know more about hockey in the Rose City to visit here, where I blog exclusively about the Winterhawks. I’ll post an occasional musing about the Hawks, the WHL and junior hockey here as well.

Follow me on Twitter: @AbovetheGlass

Email: samantha@kuklaskorner.com