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Hard To Believe The NHL Side

from Gary Belsky of Time,

You may not have noticed that the NHL hasn’t started its season yet, which is arguably Problem #1 for the wannabe major sport league: Ice hockey is fourth in a three-horse race of  professional team sports vying for the affection of casual U.S. sports fans. Problem #1A is the lockout of players that’s been in force since Sept. 15, which has resulted in the cancellation of nearly 550 regular-season games to date. And in the event you are following the inaction rinkside, don’t be fooled when league officials or anyone else claims that the main issue is greedy players. The real problem in pro hockey is not in the locker room, but rather in the owners’ suites and commissioner’s office.The NHL would like you to believe that owners give too much money to players. That was the owners’ position almost a decade ago—the last time the league locked out its talent—when players were getting 74% of total revenues. After an entire season was voided, the NHL Players Association caved, agreeing to lower its members’ share of revenue to 57%. Peace and harmony have ensued since, but now the owners want an even bigger piece of the pie, claiming financial hardship.

Don’t believe them, not for a minute. First, as I’ve written about before, sports team accounting is misleading at best, given that owners can claim to be losing money when a) they’re often really not; b) there are tax benefits from those losses that are real; and c) the value of their teams continue to rise.

continued

Filed in: NHL Talk, NHLPA, | KK Hockey | Permalink
 

Comments

Avatar

The article’s okay, but Belsky’s approaching the issue from an oblique direction.

Yes, there would be a healthier league if there were either fewer teams or teams in rational markets, or both.  Yes, it’s pretty stupid to pour millions of dollars in hockey ops losses down the sundry holes misplaced NHL teams crate.

The thing that Belsky is missing is that this was the plan all along

1) Put teams in big US markets that don’t give a bleep about the NHL, even if that means you have to rip them away from smaller or non-US markets who actually already care about the NHL.

2) Keep them in their new cities until they care about the NHL.

3) Sign a huge TV deal with all the networks lining up to broadcast the NHL.

Sounds great, right?

The problem is the plan is completely stupid.  The NHL is still stuck at step 1, and they’re going to be stuck on step 1 forever… or at least until a new Commissioner comes in who isn’t welded to this stupid plan like Bettman is.

So the leagues financials suck, they have to force small market teams to overspend so these new markets aren’t awful forever, which means the league has to chase down every last dollar from the players, which leads to lockouts… and on and on it goes.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 12/19/12 at 03:31 PM ET

CaptainDennisPolonich's avatar

One would think that the well-reasoned Time piece would be enough to get the few anti-NHLPA posters around here to reconsider their positions. Alas, this is the internet; where, seemingly, facts, logic and reason are checked at the door.

Cue EP and the other player-haters in 5…4…3…2…

Posted by CaptainDennisPolonich from The Land of Fake Boobs and Real Nuts on 12/19/12 at 03:32 PM ET

Red Winger's avatar

Cue EP and the other player-haters in 5…4…3…2…

Posted by CaptainDennisPolonich from Warm and sunny SoCal on 12/19/12 at 02:32 PM ET

So anyone that doesn’t buy what the NHLPA is selling is a “player-hater”

Yup, that should get a solid, well-reasoned conversation started.

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie on 12/19/12 at 03:35 PM ET

Red Winger's avatar

One would think that the well-reasoned Time piece

I, too, run to Time magazine when I want the skinny on what’s really going on in the world of hockey smile

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie on 12/19/12 at 03:42 PM ET

Paul's avatar

I, too, run to Time magazine when I want the skinny on what’s really going on in the world of hockey

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie on 12/19/12 at 02:42 PM ET

It is about Time!

Posted by Paul from Motown Area on 12/19/12 at 03:43 PM ET

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So the leagues financials suck,

except they dont actually suck.  Certainly not league wide.  And as the article states, the owners of franchises that are claiming loses, are also reaping tax benefits from those loses, and benefiting from significant growth in the value of their assets.

which means the league has to chase down every last dollar from the players,

Or, they could share revenue.

which leads to lockouts…

\

Or, they could try to work cooperatively with the NHLPA, rather than going to war, and probably would have gotten most of the concessions the players have offered without losing a season worth of games.

Posted by jwad on 12/19/12 at 03:44 PM ET

CaptainDennisPolonich's avatar

So anyone that doesn’t buy what the NHLPA is selling is a “player-hater”
Yup, that should get a solid, well-reasoned conversation started.
Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie on 12/19/12 at 02:35 PM ET

Yup, and it appears I was right to do so because you just skipped right over a well reasoned article on why the owners are primarily at fault to focus on what the union “is selling.” Maybe I should change it from player-hater to union-hater. Is it perhaps anti-union sentiment that is keeping you from seeing the culpability of the owners for this debacle?

Posted by CaptainDennisPolonich from The Land of Fake Boobs and Real Nuts on 12/19/12 at 03:47 PM ET

CaptainDennisPolonich's avatar

I, too, run to Time magazine when I want the skinny on what’s really going on in the world of hockey
Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie on 12/19/12 at 02:42 PM ET

Two posts on this thread and nothing to rebut the well reasoned arguments. This time you come up with a weak ad hominem attack that somehow Time can’t possibly know anything about the business of hockey.

Here are a couple of blurbs about Gary Belsky, the author of the piece.

From Time:

Gary Belsky, former editor in chief of ESPN The Magazine and ESPNInsider.com, is co-author of the bestselling Why Smart People Make Big Money Mistakes—And How To Correct Them: Lessons from the Life-Changing Science of Behavioral Economics. Gary, a media consultant, lectures on sales psychology, behavioral economics and decision making to businesses and consumer groups around the world.

From NYU (he’s a faculty member):

Gary Belsky, a columnist for Time.com, is the former editor in chief of ESPN The Magazine and ESPNInsider.com, one of the largest and fastest-growing paid-content websites in the world. Author of several books, Belsky is lectures frequently on decision making, choice architecture to business and consumer audiences around the world. From 2007 through 2010, Belsky was co-host of a weekly sports radio show on Sirius, and prior to that he was a regular commentator on CNN’s Your Money and a frequent contributor to Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, Crossfire and Oprah. A St. Louis native, Belsky graduated from the University of Missouri in that city in 1983 with a BA in speech communication and political science; he currently serves on the Leadership Council of the Pierre Laclede Honors College at the University. Before joining ESPN, Belsky was a writer at Moneymagazine and a reporter for Crain’s New York Business and the St. Louis Business Journal. In 1990, he won the Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism. Belsky, who lives in Manhattan, serves on the board of directors of Urban Pathways, one of New York City’s largest providers of services to the homeless and mentally ill; and the New York Neo-Futurists, an award-winning East Village theater company.

Care to enlighten us with your resume?

Posted by CaptainDennisPolonich from The Land of Fake Boobs and Real Nuts on 12/19/12 at 03:57 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

Capt. D’s on FIRE today.  Get’em.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 12/19/12 at 04:02 PM ET

Vladimir16's avatar

Maybe I should change it from player-hater to union-hater. Is it perhaps anti-union sentiment that is keeping you from seeing the culpability of the owners for this debacle?

Posted by CaptainDennisPolonich from Warm and sunny SoCal on 12/19/12 at 02:47 PM ET

NICE!
And don’t forget the “I’m on the owners side because I just wanna watch my precious NHL games” people. Oh, and also the “I’m on the owners side because, even though my favourite team is bleeding money I could care less, I just wanna watch my precious team play” people.
I think that about covers it. Unless of course you include the “I like to argue because it’s fun and I wasn’t able to pass the bar” people too

Posted by Vladimir16 from Grand River Valley on 12/19/12 at 04:03 PM ET

Vladimir16's avatar

Capt. D’s on FIRE today.  Get’em.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 12/19/12 at 03:02 PM ET

This ^^^^

Posted by Vladimir16 from Grand River Valley on 12/19/12 at 04:04 PM ET

perfection's avatar

anti-union sentiment seems to be behind just about every comment I see on here critical of the players’ position. it’s rarely supported with fact or rational argument (whereas there are countless rational arguments, such as this Time article, that lay out the faults of the owners and league in this situation). In fact, I think the primary argument I read on here critical of the players is simply that they are going to end up getting screwed in the end anyway, so they should just accept it now so we get our hockey back. It’s an awesomely selfish view of this saga completely glossing over who locked out who and who strong armed the last CBA. I’m actually kind of confused how, even from an owner’s perspective, Bettman can say with a straight face that the last CBA is essentially a player-friendly failure, yet HE canceled an entire season to get that CBA. In my eyes, it’s either a good agreement or Bettman failed miserably. If he did indeed fail, how on earth do they trust him to do it right this time?

I think the article makes a great point about the supposed “losses” the teams are incurring… all while the value of their franchise increases. If there’s anything billionaires are masterful at it’s clever accounting. 

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 12/19/12 at 04:07 PM ET

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except they dont actually suck.  Certainly not league wide.  And as the article states, the owners of franchises that are claiming loses, are also reaping tax benefits from those loses, and benefiting from significant growth in the value of their assets.

First off, franchise valuation is a meaningless term.  You can think your house is worth a million bucks, but the real value is only what someone would pay to buy it.

Secondly, you can’t spend franchise value even if you choose to believe it grows across the board.  If hockey ops blow a hole in the financials, it’s not like an owner can sell off parts of the team every year to float those losses.

Thirdly, if a franchise value isn’t increasing at the rate of inflation an owner is actually LOSING value.

Next, I don’t think the financials suck for every single team.  Just pretty much half of them.

Further still, if the point of owning an NHL team is it’s facility as a tax write off… just exactly what kind of owners do you think that will attract?

Or, they could share revenue.

At what percentage?  I hear people talking about ‘sharing revenue’, but I never really see anything specific.  Using the Forbes numbers, for example:

The teams that made a profit made an aggregate profit of roughly 380 mil.  I’m speed-mathing this so it’s not precise.  The teams that lost money lost around 130 mil.

130/380 = 34%. 

So, just to get the losers to even you’re talking about taxing any team that makes a dollar of profit at a rate of 34%.  And don’t think for a second that a whole lot of the teams wouldn’t adjust their expenses to avoid just having 34% of every dollar vacuumed away to go pay Phoenix or Columbus to suck.

Or, they could try to work cooperatively with the NHLPA, rather than going to war, and probably would have gotten most of the concessions the players have offered without losing a season worth of games.

I don’t follow your logic there.  The players didn’t even agree to 50-50 until a couple months were cancelled, and they were still asking for a couple hundred million bucks more than the owners wanted to give up until… well, they haven’t stopped, really.

What strategy from the NHL would have moved the PA down faster?  Saying please?  Both sides were dug in wayyyyyy ahead of time on this one.

Yup, and it appears I was right to do so because you just skipped right over a well reasoned article on why the owners are primarily at fault to focus on what the union “is selling.” Maybe I should change it from player-hater to union-hater. Is it perhaps anti-union sentiment that is keeping you from seeing the culpability of the owners for this debacle?

So he’s a union-hater and you’re a business-hater.

See?  Now it’s all fixed.

If the owners would have just played under the old deal nary a game would have been missed.  If the players had just taken one of the owners first 6 or 7 offers, nary a game would have been missed.

Blaming this on one side or the other is silly.

 

Posted by HockeyinHD on 12/19/12 at 04:11 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

First off, franchise valuation is a meaningless term.  You can think your house is worth a million bucks, but the real value is only what someone would pay to buy it.

Classic HD’ing.  This coming from the same guy who treats Forbes numbers like gospel, Forbes even does “franchise valuation” as you call it, but for the purposes of you being right, today, they are meaningless.. because you said so.  Based on no fact.

epic.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 12/19/12 at 04:21 PM ET

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I think the primary argument I read on here critical of the players is simply that they are going to end up getting screwed in the end anyway, so they should just accept it now so we get our hockey back.

Nah.

My position is that it’s stupid financially for the PA to hold out past the point where they lose more from not playing than they would have from just taking a ‘bad deal’, and then going after the next negotiations to make some of it back down the road.  Essentially, if 50% HRR of 7 years of hockey is more than 50+x% HRR at 6 years of hockey, they’re idiots for holding out for x.

I mean, the PA has been wrangling over 200ish mil in ‘make whole’, and in the meantime they’ve lost 500+ mil in salaries… so even if they got every dollar of the make whole they wanted they’ll still be 300 mil short in terms of total bucks in pockets.

For me, at least, this isn’t about getting the NHL back any sooner.  Hey, whenever is fine with me.  I’m looking at this like someone with a clue, and who can count, and who is willing to do that instead of trying to ‘beat Bettman’.

I’m actually kind of confused how, even from an owner’s perspective, Bettman can say with a straight face that the last CBA is essentially a player-friendly failure, yet HE canceled an entire season to get that CBA.

It’s pretty simple, actually.  Bettman sucks at his job and he wrote a stupid, leaky CBA with a bunch of pretty obvious flaws and really stupid clauses.

That’s been my biggest concern here all along, really.  Bettman could have gotten whatever he wanted back in 2005, and still screwed the pooch.  I don’t trust him any more to leave the same pooch unscrewed just because he’s 7 years older.

Considering how adamant he’s been on the contracting issues, I think it’s pretty clear he doesn’t trust himself a whole bunch in that regard either.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 12/19/12 at 04:22 PM ET

Joe Z.'s avatar

This is whole debate about who’s the good one and who’s the bad one is a political since day one. So arguments and facts simply don’t count :-(

If you want to understand what the NHL under Bettman is pulling off since the last lockout you should read Public Relations by Edward Bernays. In 2005 it worked perfectly, bad thing for the NHL now, D. Fehr also read that book….

Posted by Joe Z. from Austria on 12/19/12 at 04:24 PM ET

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Classic HD’ing.  This coming from the same guy who treats Forbes numbers like gospel, Forbes even does “franchise valuation” as you call it, but for the purposes of you being right, today, they are meaningless.. because you said so.  Based on no fact.

It’s based on reality, HO.  Franchise value is as concrete as estimating how many goals a player will score.  It’s an estimation of an asset’s worth in the future.

It’s useful, it can serve as a point of reference, but it’s not a liquid asset.

I mean, if you own a house and have it appraised… what does that mean?  Does it mean someone will give you that much when you put it up for sale?  Of course not.  It’s an approximation of value a professional can provide that gives you a general idea what the market is like.

Where you are getting confused is in how the different numbers are calculated, and assuming that since I view two different numbers calculated in two different ways which represent two different things differently… I’m not being consistent.

I’m always open to new ideas though, so explain to me why you think franchise valuations are ‘factual’, and in what way they are relevant to a discussion regarding league financials?

Posted by HockeyinHD on 12/19/12 at 04:28 PM ET

Avatar

First off, franchise valuation is a meaningless term.  You can think your house is worth a million bucks, but the real value is only what someone would pay to buy it.

How many are selling?

if a franchise value isn’t increasing at the rate of inflation an owner is actually LOSING value.

Based on the numbers reported in the article, they are growing way above the rate of inflation.

Further still, if the point of owning an NHL team is it’s facility as a tax write off… just exactly what kind of owners do you think that will attract?

Sure the point of owning a team is to make a profit.  But not all of that profit comes from Hockey operations.There also in the facility, and the facility management deals, and other income which is not part of the HRR calculation.  So, owners who are claiming loses on Hockey Operations are still making money on their investmant, and seeing the value of that investment grow.

130/380 = 34%.

So assuming this is accurate, its still less then the three major sports as reported in the article.  That would also assume that all Owners would need to be brought to even on Hockey operations to be turning a profit on the whole business of owning a major sports franchise, operating an arena etc.  It also assumes no concessions from players, which are pretty much guaranteed.

What strategy from the NHL would have moved the PA down faster?  Saying please?  Both sides were dug in wayyyyyy ahead of time on this one.

Actually negotiating maybe?  the NHL was never serious about negotiating.  Only using strong arm tactics.

Posted by jwad on 12/19/12 at 04:38 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

I was just pointing out your random dismissal of facts/terms/definitions whatever it is, based ont he arguement with NO basis behind it.  If Forbes values a franchise at 130m (coyotes) but the Yotes say they’re worth 170m, would you say one has more merit than the other based on the numbers and who’s processing them?  But in your statement all that doesn’t matter.  Unless you’re talking about reporting losses which can be treated as gospel but when used to assign value to a franchise it’s suddenly meaningless.

And let’s get to what you REALLY did there though, because none of my previous statement REALLY matters.  Someone said that even though these teams are reporting losses, the value of these franchises are increasing.  So it’s not exactly pulling a wild-ass-guess out of their ass and saying that’s what they’re worth.  BASED ON NUMBERS, they’re are claiming to be unsuccessful, while the value of their business increases. 

I really shouldn’t even be feeding you.  None of this will get thorugh, you’ll argue the TRUE definition of some term I used them the arguement will be because you think a term means something else then the person who wrote the article must be stupid for not understand YOUR logic and anyone who agrees with him is stupid by proxy, I imagine I’ll see an “EYEROLL” in there somewhere as well.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 12/19/12 at 04:40 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

I can’t ignore your ass because you flame the comments section so much that it makes understanding the convo unintelligable.  So at this point it’s avoiding them all-together which really makes half the point of coming here void.  Hockey’s not that popular and my only hockey-buddies are on here, but now most of them are hybernating and for the most part you jump into any thread with any amount of comments and just flame the shit out of it.  There’s no upside to doing the dance anymore.  Just you and your horse-shit whenever a decent convo gets going.  fuchin a.

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 12/19/12 at 04:58 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 12/19/12 at 03:07 PM ET

Great post.

First off, franchise valuation is a meaningless term.  You can think your house is worth a million bucks, but the real value is only what someone would pay to buy it.

Not really. How do you think the Devils got so many loans they could default on if franchise value was meaningless? Somebody has to have an opinion on what the franchises are worth and lenders are all to happy to let guys take out loans based on those supposed franchise values.  They may be meaningless if they’re arrived at capriciously, and I don’t think Forbes does a particularly good job of assessing them, but they’re not meaningless.

Secondly, you can’t spend franchise value even if you choose to believe it grows across the board.  If hockey ops blow a hole in the financials, it’s not like an owner can sell off parts of the team every year to float those losses.

As covered in the above paragraph, you can leverage a team’s equity to get loans. If your financials are so bad that nobody will lend to you because they feel like you’re simply high a risk (like what eventually ran Jerry Moyes out of Phoenix), then you have problems. Fortunately, those lenders look at the entirety of the ownership’s businesses and not just hockey ops.

Thirdly, if a franchise value isn’t increasing at the rate of inflation an owner is actually LOSING value.

This is a true statement on its face, but so is saying that if you pay $1.00 for a $0.74 item and get back a quarter then you’ve been short-changed.

Neither is applicable here.

 

 

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 12/19/12 at 05:38 PM ET

awould's avatar

I can’t ignore your ass because you flame the comments section so much that it makes understanding the convo unintelligable. 
Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 12/19/12 at 03:58 PM ET

HD’s argument tactic, often, is to oversimplify a complex issue or convalute (should be a word) a simple concept.

Simple concept: A franchise claiming huge losses while increasing in value is inconsistent. HD Tortured Logic: Franchise value is complex yet meaningless and not tied to revenues somehow.

Complex issue: Revenue sharing is needed to even the playing field and sustain a healthy league long-term (see: NFL). HD Simple Logic: 130/380=34% Therefore, Impossible. End of discussion.

Posted by awould on 12/19/12 at 05:56 PM ET

Red Winger's avatar

So, just got back to the ‘puter, and have had time to digest the good Captain’s posts.

Let’s see what we got:

1) call anyone who doesn’t agree with the NHLPA a “player hater” at 2:32

2) complain about ad hominen attacks at 2:47

3) try to clean up own hypocrisy by changing “anti-player to “anti-union”

4) complain that there is no substantive debate going on.

I don’t care who you are, THAT is talent right there

I belong to the MEA and NEA, and I am “anti-union”. And, I am the guy throwing “ad hominens”

Granted, I don’t have that bible of hockey (aka Time Magazine) on my side in this particular fight, but, I still stand by my positions.

As risky as it is to not change your tune once Time disagrees with you when it comes to hockey (it has a legendary relationship with the sport; its last article about hockey was a paragraph blurb concerning the fact certain California Golden Seals players rang bells for the Salvation Army at a Woolworths), nevertheless I am willing to take that risk.

Posted by Red Winger from Sault Ste Marie on 12/19/12 at 06:41 PM ET

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Bettman can say with a straight face that the last CBA is essentially a player-friendly failure, yet HE canceled an entire season to get that CBA.

He can do this because he counts on people having fairly short memories when actual facts are involved, but he can rely on a strong emotional response to Fehr having caused the 1994 baseball strike.

For some Fehr is a demon for having missed the World Series and yet Bettman gets a pass for missing an entire season and a Stanley Cup Final. I can’t account for the emotional disconnect on the latter.

Posted by hockey1919 from mid-atlantic on 12/19/12 at 06:43 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

CaptainDennisPolonich AWWWWWWWWWWWW Denny has EP envy ! how sweet!! smile

Posted by Evilpens on 12/19/12 at 07:30 PM ET

redxblack's avatar

I wish I could “thumbs up” most of the comments on this thread.

Thanks for posting this one, Paul!

Posted by redxblack from Akron Ohio on 12/19/12 at 07:58 PM ET

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Gary Belsky, a columnist for Time.com, is the former editor in chief of ESPN The Magazine and ESPNInsider.com

This is being used as evidence that Belsky knows what’s good for hockey???


Anyways, while I think he’s bang on with this

Don’t believe them, not for a minute. First, as I’ve written about before, sports team accounting is misleading at best, given that club owners can claim to be losing money when a) the losses are on paper only; b) there are tax benefits from whatever losses happen to be real; and c) the value of their teams continue to rise.

and that team “losses” are not merely exaggerated, but, quite frequently, bullshit. Forbes might think the Panthers leak like a sieve, but that’s news to the local county councilmen.


But the rest of his reasoning is full of hole.

Take this.

First, there’s a strong argument to be made that there are too many NHL teams…etc etc

The overall thesis of Belsky’s is that instead of getting their own house in order, the owners bleed the players.

Okay. So why is he suggesting contraction? He wants to save the patient from bloodletting by suggesting an amputation of 30-160 of its members. That doesn’t make any sense.

And while he’s correct that the NHL would not need to bleed the players if they shared much more revenue, he fails to mention that the NHLPA hasn’t proposed that solution. They asked for a couple million more than there used to be and the league said ‘k’ next.

Posted by larry on 12/19/12 at 07:59 PM ET

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He wants to save the patient from bloodletting by suggesting an amputation of 30-160 of its members.

Or he wants the patient to live, so he’s suggesting they cut out the cancerous cells.

Posted by Garth on 12/19/12 at 10:15 PM ET

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All this string proved is that no one posting on here has changed their position in over 3 months. Blah Blah Blah

Posted by timbits on 12/19/12 at 10:46 PM ET

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Or he wants the patient to live, so he’s suggesting they cut out the cancerous cells.

Posted by Garth on 12/19/12 at 09:15 PM ET

So the worst 100 guys in the NHLPA are cancers now? Wow, what a thoughtful thing to say.

Posted by larry on 12/20/12 at 12:50 AM ET

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worst 100 guys in the NHLPA are cancers

No the teams that employ them. And the worst 100 guys don’t just happen to play exclusively for the worst teams.

The existing profitable teams hate the idea of contraction. They can use the poor teams as an excuse to curtail spending while they have unchecked profits. Sure they share just a little bit, but imagine if they had to compete against teams that had equal revenue?  Their profits would start to tank and franchises values could decline.

Posted by hockey1919 from mid-atlantic on 12/20/12 at 02:07 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.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

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