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Bettman is Doing Things Right

From Cathal Kelly at the Toronto Star:

Bettman takes a ridiculous amount of stick for what he doesn’t know about hockey. He may have known nothing about it when he took the job, you know, 18 years ago. Let’s drop this snobbish pose that only a Canadian raised in the game can ever appreciate it.

Right now, by his actions, no one is proving a better defender of the NHL’s century old traditions than Bettman. The shrimp from Queens is the bulwark standing between hockey as it is and the reactionaries who want to neuter it.

What keeps getting lost in all the jabber around headshots is that few of those inside the game want radical change. And this is ‘inside’ — not to include yammering team owners and sponsors. If you’ve ever witnessed the excruciating meeting between any professional athlete and the people who sign his cheques, you understand how far away from the inner circle the moneymen stand.

Coyote Shane Doan summed up the insider philosophy the nice way: “We understand they have to take care of us, but at the same time, we choose to go out there and get hit and hit people. You understand it’s just the way it is.”

much more

Filed in: NHL Talk, Cheap Hits, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: gary+bettman, headshots

Comments

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Atlanta, Phoenix, Nashville, Florida, helloooooooooooo?

Last I heard all those teams were struggling with either people in the seats or corporate support.

Last I heard all those teams have suffered through years of bad management/and or consecutive years of dismal on ice performance. Let’s put another team in Toronto, one that wins, have the city sport a winning NBA team and then let’s see where the Leaf’s attendance is….

Posted by Tuomas from Ft. Lauderdale, FL USA on 03/19/11 at 07:09 PM ET

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I have to defend the article, the owners and Bettman.The owners knew those markets werent hockey markets when they went there but they needed to do so to open up TV markets.If you dont understand yet why they want to stay in arizona, It’s simple math its a top 10 TV market.end of story.The fact is Winnipeg and Quebec would selll out arenas but not at toronto or montreal prices so its status quo and the corporate support is not there like some believe.Corporation arent giving 200k for private booths.Ottawa works because because they have an owner who burns through his money the owners of winnipeg or quebec franchises wont do that as there has been no interest by a billionaire individual to do so.When the canadiens went on sale in the 90s not one quebec or canadian company made a bid.think about that.

there is alot wrong with the NHL but think about this the NBA and NFL have moved 8 franchises in the last 10 years and the NHL none.think about that. good or bad the NHL is far from the only sports league that has troublesome teams/cities.The NBA is rapidly losing corporate support they once had oozing from their fingertips and attendance is down.their last TV contract was average.the NFL has TV money and it masks half filled stadiums and all the problems.the NHL salry cap will flirt with 60 million next year imagine if the NHL had 1.2 billion per year to play with they would have teams in new mexico and kansas for gods sake!!! green bay won the super bowl because every year before the season stars the teams get 35 million from the league 15 million from local tv and radio and 7 miilion from licensing and apparel deals.another 8 million in stadium adverstising and all that is without selling a single ticket and they still lose money every year.you tell me which system is more screwed

Posted by R U kidding on 03/19/11 at 07:20 PM ET

PaulinMiamiBeach's avatar

defending hockey’s traditions?

you mean like changing the decades-old conferenc and division names?

Posted by PaulinMiamiBeach on 03/19/11 at 08:53 PM ET

cainer4wingsglory's avatar

Get back in the kitchen and make me a sandwich!

Posted by cainer4wingsglory on 03/19/11 at 09:07 PM ET

Alan's avatar

Atlanta, Phoenix, Nashville, Florida, helloooooooooooo?

Last I heard all those teams were struggling with either people in the seats or corporate support.

If you think it’s because “the experiment has failed,” you really have no idea what you’re talking about.

The reason, at least in Atlanta, is widely published. Well, widely published south of the 49th, anyway.

Posted by Alan from Atlanta on 03/19/11 at 09:13 PM ET

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Get back in the kitchen and make me a sandwich!

It would appear to me that Cathal Kelly is in fact a man, unless the Toronto Star has mixed up portraits. Not that he can’t make you a sandwich anyway, but that sure seems like a horrible, abusive and loveless relationship you’ve got there. I think the two of you should split up, before you end up on a domestic-abuse special of COPS (again).

Posted by Mr. Fnytelhatt on 03/19/11 at 11:06 PM ET

Alan's avatar

LMAO @ anyone coming from Atlanta and defending this.

WE watch the games here, you have heard of Center Ice, right?

Your attendance is pathetic and your ownership group is like a bunch of 12 yr old’s fighting over marbles.

Wow, so you have heard of Atlanta’s ownership group. Think, really hard now, if that might have something to do with the poor attendance.

No matter. There’s a bridge missing its troll. You should go back to that bridge of yours.

Posted by Alan from Atlanta on 03/19/11 at 11:49 PM ET

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You could say the same thing about the ‘67 expansion.  It took years foe LA etc to catch on but look at them now.  You can’t grow something by hiding it.  Bettman has done a good job.  He’s trying toget a toehold in as many places as possible.  Knowing that if he can hold on long enough the game will eventually take off.  Provincial small minded Canadians don’t realize hockey is a business.  And who exactly is going to sign as a free agent in Winnipeg.  Edmonton has enough trouble attracting free agents.  Between the high taxes and low temperatures it’s a tough sell.  Where would you rather be playing in January Tampa Bay or Winnipeg?  Aside from the gate, the TV audience is small.  The merchandise market is small.  Bettman is treating hockey as a big league enterprise like baseball and football.  Would they put a franchise in Albany NY.  Well Albany is comparable to Winnipeg The only reason these cities were in play in the first place is the WHA couldn’t cut it in NY, Toronto, Boston etc and relocated to small markets back in the 1970’s in an attempt to survive.  Maybe the NHL can return to Indianapolis and Birmingham.

Posted by 13 user names on 03/20/11 at 01:27 AM ET

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Knowing that if he can hold on long enough the game will eventually take off.

Except that’s demonstrably not true.

The only places hockey teams are well-supported in non-traditional markets is where the teams are very good.  As soon as the team struggles, the fans evaporate immediately… and you can’t count on continuous competence to drive fan interest, not in a capped league where every team regresses to the mean eventually.

The bottom 11 attendance teams are (20th to 30th):

Carolina, Nashville, Florida, Dallas, Colorado, Anaheim, NJ, Columbus, Atlanta, Phoenix, Islanders.

Look at that list of cities and try and tell me there isn’t a real problem.  And 7-9 of them are in the bottom 20-30 pretty much every year now.

Maybe, MAYBE a team in a non-traditional market can get by with 16k fans at the gate.  But when those teams are ALSO selling the tickets for bargain basement prices and the NHL being a gate-driven revenue league… it’s going to be a long-term no go.

As far as this free agent destination hypocrisy goes… who is going to sign as a free agent in Atlanta?  Or the Islanders?  Or the Panthers?  Or in Nashville?  Or in Columbus?  Or in Carolina?  Or in any city that has a terrible hockey team and/or limited financial muscle?

Trying to pass Edmonton off as a poor destination because of its location is utter crap.  Detroit isn’t exactly Malibu North and they don’t seem to have much trouble generating interest league wide.

The market-size issue is also total crap.  Edmonton’s metro area is about the same size as Rochester.  Indianapolis is 60% larger.  Nobody in their right mind could wor would suggest basing a pro-hockey team out of Rochester or Indy… yet the NHL is a successful franchise in a much smaller relative market in an area which actually, you know, CARES ABOUT HOCKEY.

When the NHL goes to Phoenix or Tampa or Dallas they become option #14 or so on the list of ‘places to spend your entertainment dollar’, so the size of the total metro market itself is pretty much meaningless given that the NHL isn’t going to capture any of that market share against the NFL, NBA, MLB, college teams, golf, being outside, and all the rest.  In Edmonton (or WInnipeg, or Quebec), even though the total market size is much smaller, the fact that the NHL team there would dominate said smaller market gives the team as much or more net support than they’d get in a market 4 or 5 or 6 times as big.

Atlanta’s metro area is larger than any Canadian metro area.  It’s just a bit smaller than Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, and Ottawa COMBINED.

Shut up about market size.  It doesn’t matter.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 03/20/11 at 04:54 AM ET

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The only places hockey teams are well-supported in non-traditional markets is where the teams are very good.  As soon as the team struggles, the fans evaporate immediately… and you can’t count on continuous competence to drive fan interest, not in a capped league where every team regresses to the mean eventually

This statement is patently false!

Here is Winnipegs average attendance before they moved to Phoenix, 1989-1996


13,106 12,931 12,931 13,550 13,297 13,013 11,316

Here is Phoenix attendance since arriving in the desert:  In every way you add it up, Phoenix is a stronger market than Winnipeg.  Even after the calculated effort by Canadians to assaassinate the franchise in Phoenix the attendance is still stronger than Winnipegs last season. 1996-2010

15604 15,405 15,548 14,991 14,224 13,161 13,229 15,469 15,582 14,988 14,820 14,875 11,989


If you want to argue about whether the NHL should be in Seattle and Houston over Columbus and Nashville bring it on.  But, those American hockey haters and Canadian xenophobes can scream all they want about non-traditional markets.  But the facts are plain, moving to irrelevant small Canadian markets will only damage the NHL in the future.

Posted by timbits on 03/20/11 at 03:35 PM ET

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Thank you for proving my point.  Even using info from FIFTEEN YEARS AGO, the best you can do is demonstrate that a non-traditional US market with a metro area of 4.3+ million people hardly supports an NHL team as well as a Canadian market with (at the time) barely 650,000 thousand people.

And don’t overlook the ticket price portion of this as well.  In their last two years when they were desperate to sell tickets in Winnipeg they were charging an average of 23 bucks or so to go to a game.  A DECADE LATER the Coyotes were charging $25.41 on average.

They’ve gone on to bump their ticket prices, but that’s certainly contributed to the teams attendance cratering as well.

Market size is almost meaningless in this discussion, especially when a market SEVEN TIMES BIGGER can’t draw significantly more fans than the other.

There are reasons for that, and whether the team stays there 3 more, 5 more, 10 more or 50 more years won’t change them.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 03/20/11 at 04:14 PM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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