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It’s time to burn the village in order to save it…again…

As the New York Post's Larry Brooks wisely suggests, this third "work stoppage" seems eerily reminscent of the previous pair in that the NHL is once again engaging in a collective bargaining strategy that effectively handcuffs the sport's ascendancy to true "major league" status by burning down the village in order to save its profit margins once every eight to ten years:

Other than the collateral damage the owners’ lockout will inflict on various groups of innocent third-party civilians who are dependent upon the NHL for income, the saddest aspect of this fiasco is the opportunity that has been forfeited by the league to break through the frozen ceiling under which it operates in the United States.

As represented by Gary Bettman in both word and deed, the NHL is exposed as a small-minded operation, one utterly lacking in creativity and ingenuity with a primary — if not sole — mission to generate as much profit as possible for its most well-heeled franchise owners.

Talk of “growing the game” has been abandoned. The commissioner, who on Thursday said it is unrealistic to expect revenue to continue to grow at the annual rate of 7.1 percent it did through the seven seasons under the CBA that expired at midnight, is out of ideas.

The league has been taking credit for steady growth of income that reached a record $3.28 billion in hockey-related revenue last year, but on Thursday, Bettman attributed that success to three factors — the strength of the Canadian dollar; the 10-year, $2 billion NBC contract; and last season’s franchise shift from Atlanta to Winnipeg.


Of course, there is a fourth factor: the significant annual hikes in ticket prices pretty much across the board, and most dramatically in the league’s biggest markets.

Continued with some suggestions as to what these CBA negotiations should center themselves upon...

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Comments

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I always get a kick out of seeing the opinion posited that the NHL’s CBA, or fairly regular lack thereof, is the thing that prevents it from becoming a big-time sport.

It’s like the guy with spectacular body odor and a violent temper blaming his lack of a girlfriend on the kind of car he has.

Compared to the NFL, MLB and NBA, the NHL will always be a guy with BO and a temper.  A better car ain’t changing nuttin’.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 09/16/12 at 09:37 AM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

The NHL doesn’t have to be a strong competitor to the bigger leagues to be better off than it was before.

Work stoppages are preventing that from even happening.  If the idea is to make as much money as possible, then to chase an audience as large as possible is the only strategy. Pandering to extremely saturated markets is a great way for your profits to stay exactly in line with inflation. It’ s a very safe strategy and a good way to make a known and consistent amount of money.

If the NHL wants to do that, then it is what it is.

However, if the NHL wants to continue the strategy of growing the game across the United States (and I’d say the southern expansion and the fact that the Thrashers are the only one of those teams who have moved back to a saturated market), then damaging their own momentum isn’t fitting within that strategy.

To borrow a metaphor, it’s a guy with spectacular body odor and a violent temper blaming his lack of a mistress in the next town on his inability to drive to that town because every time he doesn’t get his way, he slashes his own tires.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 09/16/12 at 09:58 AM ET

Evilpens's avatar

I just wonder why People take Larry(Senile)Brooks seriously & link his columns !

Posted by Evilpens on 09/16/12 at 10:17 AM ET

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New York Post’s Larry Brooks wisely suggests

A bigger oxymoron has never been written.

Posted by timbits on 09/16/12 at 10:19 AM ET

Evilpens's avatar

Mark Madden ‏
Fehr wants 2 soften the cap. & at some point, he’ll want 2 eliminate it.


HMMMMMMMMMM even the Ridiculously fake & Vapid Mark Madden gets it

Posted by Evilpens on 09/16/12 at 10:21 AM ET

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Mark Madden ‏
Fehr wants 2 soften the cap. & at some point, he’ll want 2 eliminate it.


HMMMMMMMMMM even the Ridiculously fake & Vapid Mark Madden gets it

Posted by Evilpens on 09/16/12 at 10:21 AM ET


continue to believe in mark madden’s conspiracy theories.

Posted by FlyersFan on 09/16/12 at 11:32 AM ET

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The NHL doesn’t have to be a strong competitor to the bigger leagues to be better off than it was before.

Work stoppages are preventing that from even happening.

How do you figure?  What upward trend of growth has ever been cut short by a lockout? 

Last years Cup Finals were the lowest watched Finals since 2007.  After being in Florida for almost 20 years the Panthers average 3,000 households a night watching them on the TV.  Three of the top 5 NHL TV markets in terms of ratings (Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Detroit) saw their ratings decrease over the previous year.

If the idea is to make as much money as possible, then to chase an audience as large as possible is the only strategy.

... and this is what Bettman did when he pushed NHL teams into Phoenix, into Dallas, into Florida, into Nashville, etc.

To what effect?  To no effect.  Interest in all of those markets barely triggers an EKG machine in most cases even 10-15 after the team is established.

That was why Bettman chased big TV markets, JJ.  He was after a big TV contract.  You aren’t getting a big TV contract without major footprints in major markets, which the NHL did not have prior to Bettman’s quixotic charge into them.

Unfortunately, he assumed that being in a big market meant being relevant in a big market, and as we’ve seen in Phoenix, LA, Anaheim, Florida, New York, and Dallas, that’s not even remotely the case.

Which is how he ends up with a 200 mil a year TV contract while every other major sport splits up between 5 and 15 times that much money every year.

To borrow a metaphor, it’s a guy with spectacular body odor and a violent temper blaming his lack of a mistress in the next town on his inability to drive to that town because every time he doesn’t get his way, he slashes his own tires.

Exactly.  Even if he got there, it wouldn’t matter. 

Even if the NHL had pristine labor peace, it wouldn’t matter.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 09/16/12 at 12:07 PM ET

Evilpens's avatar

@FlyersFan   I HATE Flounder, But unlike you he sees what the end goal for Fehr is

Posted by Evilpens on 09/16/12 at 12:14 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

How do you figure?  What upward trend of growth has ever been cut short by a lockout?

After being in Florida for almost 20 years the Panthers average 3,000 households a night watching them on the TV.

How many households a night watched the NHL in Florida 21 years ago?

Which is how he ends up with a 200 mil a year TV contract while every other major sport splits up between 5 and 15 times that much money every year.

Again, you’re saying that the NHL’s failure to be a real competitor with the NFL, MLB, and NBA is proof of failure. The deal they have now is way better than any deal they’ve had.

NHL hockey doesn’t register on your radar, but it’s better off from a national exposure standpoint than it has ever been.

Exactly.  Even if he got there, it wouldn’t matter.

The truth is that even a smelly guy with a bad temper can get a girl somewhere.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 09/16/12 at 12:57 PM ET

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How many households a night watched the NHL in Florida 21 years ago?

How many households would be watching the NHL in another city that might actually care about hockey?

Why would a network want to spend much money on a TV deal for a sport that draws fewer fans a night than go through a medium sized Walmart?

Again, you’re saying that the NHL’s failure to be a real competitor with the NFL, MLB, and NBA is proof of failure. The deal they have now is way better than any deal they’ve had.

Yippee.  If your idea of success if going from 120 mil a year (the NHL’s ESPN deal back in the early ‘00’s) to revenue sharing to 200 mil a year… hey, great.

That is, by the way, my point.  The NHL can afford to stab the NHLPA in the neck and lock out everybody because when every percentage point of HRR amounts to 33+ million bucks and we’re talking about max TV deals at 200 million bucks, securing 5 or 6 HRR points (or more) is just as important to that kind of league as almost doubling their current TV deal is.

Not to mention much easier to accomplish.

NHL hockey doesn’t register on your radar, but it’s better off from a national exposure standpoint than it has ever been.

Based on what?  That one of the current owners in the NHL negotiated a contract for their station with the NHL?  That ratings have been flatlined for 3 years now?  That the only real growth in the league comes from ticket prices?  That they have franchises in big markets that few people see live and far fewer see on TV?

Come on.  Whether the NHL’s TV deal is 120 mil a year or 200 mil a year or 250 mil a year, you’re talking about maybe 8-10 million bucks a team in a best case scenario.  Whoopdee-doo.

Even if the NHL pisses NBC off and their next contract is only for 100 million bucks a year… if they are able to get 3 HRR points back from the players the NHL more than makes up for it.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 09/16/12 at 04:01 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

maybe 8-10 million bucks a team in a best case scenario.  Whoopdee-doo.[/em

That’s funny though considering I mentioned the 10m number before as being pointless in revenue sharing as far as helping bottom tier clubs operate and the need for a more meaning revenue sharing system, and you pointed out how signficiant that number was and how helpful it was.  Which is it?

Considering over 40% of revenue in the NHL is gate driven?

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 09/16/12 at 04:42 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Yippee.  If your idea of success if going from 120 mil a year (the NHL’s ESPN deal back in the early ‘00’s) to revenue sharing to 200 mil a year… hey, great.

Yes, a definition of success where there’s an extra $80M in play is one I’m happy to have.

So what if they’re not able to get an extra 6% of HRR? Then they’ve once again killed the momentum of growth to edify themselves in the short run. The time it takes to grow a hockey culture where there previously was none takes even longer.

Like I said, if the NHL wants to be the small-potatoes league and earn a guaranteed & stable amount of money year after year, then pulling back from expansion and breaking the union again & again would reach the exact same goal as trying to play for national relevance and breaking the union again & again in order to help pay for a plan that is defeating itself.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 09/16/12 at 04:42 PM ET

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That’s funny though considering I mentioned the 10m number before as being pointless in revenue sharing as far as helping bottom tier clubs operate and the need for a more meaning revenue sharing system, and you pointed out how signficiant that number was and how helpful it was.  Which is it?

You aren’t remembering that discussion with much accuracy.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 09/16/12 at 06:26 PM ET

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Yes, a definition of success where there’s an extra $80M in play is one I’m happy to have.

Then that’s such a meaningless definition of success it’s irrelevant to worry about it.  According to you, it’s a ‘success’ when the NHL raises their ticket prices by 2.5%.  Yippee.

If ‘success’ is something so miniscule (on a league wide basis) as 80 freaking million dollars, again, you’re just proving my point.  If 80 million is actually success, then 5-6 points of HRR is a positively orgasmic experience.

So what if they’re not able to get an extra 6% of HRR? Then they’ve once again killed the momentum of growth to edify themselves in the short run. The time it takes to grow a hockey culture where there previously was none takes even longer.

What momentum of growth are you talking about, again?  Seriously, JJ, where is the momentum of growth in any southern market?  Hell, where is it in the NHL overall?

We see attendance go up 1-2% a year tops, which is barely population growth, and we see ticket prices go up 5ish% a year.  That’s it.

That aside, why do you think changing the HRR split is ‘short run’ edification?  Do you think the HRR is going to shift back towards the players in subsequent CBAs?  I sure don’t.  When the owners finally bust up the players and get them down to 46-52% of HRR that’s going to be 155+ mil to 330+ mil a) for the term of that CBA, so 4-6 years, and b) the likely ceiling of any subsequent CBA negotiations.

Let’s just say for poops and giggles that the Owners bust up the players and just take them to 52%.  Over a 6 year CBA that’s going to mean a BILLION DOLLARS.  At least.  If the NHL continues to fake grow at around 4-6% in HRR per year, it’s more like 1.3 or 1.4 billion dollars.

And that’s just at 52%.  At 49% we’re at 2 billion.  At 46% we’re at 2.5.

Compared to a possible 80 mil a year loss which wouldn’t even happen until 2021?

Come on.  Birds in hand vs. those in bushes.

Like I said, if the NHL wants to be the small-potatoes league and earn a guaranteed & stable amount of money year after year, then pulling back from expansion and breaking the union again & again would reach the exact same goal as trying to play for national relevance and breaking the union again & again in order to help pay for a plan that is defeating itself.

Here’s the problem I have with that statement: it requires you to not be even remotely aware of the way things actually are in the NHL.

The NHL has had teams in non-traditional markets for 15-20 years in some cases, JJ.  They haven’t grown.  Hell, they barely even survive.  What in the holy heck makes you think that the major thing preventing Phoenix, Nashville, Florida, Anaheim, etc etc from succeeding is a CBA?

The NHL tried what you wanted, JJ.  They did.  It failed.  They put teams all over the USA in big markets.  Most of those teams are spinning their wheels 15 years later, if they haven’t already been moved.  That’s not anybody’s fault, really, it’s just a reality that not every thing works in every place.

How long do you think it should take for a team to catch on in a city, anyway?  25 years?  50?  10-15 years is plenty long enough to know what will work in a locale, IMO.  Heck, that’s incredibly generous.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 09/16/12 at 06:50 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Hell, where is it in the NHL overall?

It’s in leaguewide revenues increasing by over a billion dollars over a timespan that covered a pretty serious recession.

The NHL has had teams in non-traditional markets for 15-20 years in some cases, JJ.  They haven’t grown.  Hell, they barely even survive.  What in the holy heck makes you think that the major thing preventing Phoenix, Nashville, Florida, Anaheim, etc etc from succeeding is a CBA?

I’d say that the Nashville and Florida examples are convenient throw-ins for two hockey clubs that are a lot better off than the fuzzy Forbes optics are letting on. The Florida Panthers are struggling because the ownership group that’s making millions off being the only game in town and running the all of the entertainment through that arena wants it to look like they’re struggling.  Same deal in Nashville.  The Preds are running all of the entertainment in the Bridgestone while the team claims a loss.

If the Sprint Center in Kansas City runs at a profit with no anchor tenant, then why are you so quick to believe that those two examples are barely surviving?  You believe it because they want you to.

How long do you think it should take for a team to catch on in a city, anyway?  25 years?  50?  10-15 years is plenty long enough to know what will work in a locale, IMO.  Heck, that’s incredibly generous.

Your opinion is short-sighted. 15 years isn’t close to long enough in a market with zero hockey culture to have casual fans even start to raise kids who were born into an era where their city had a hockey team and they can go play for a local youth league.

But you’re talking stagnant growth in ratings over a three year period as though it’s any evidence that going from having about a 70% regional exposure of the US population to around a 50% exposure is somehow a good thing for the business.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 09/16/12 at 07:06 PM ET

HockeytownOverhaul's avatar

Posted by HockeyinHD on 09/16/12 at 06:26 PM ET

I don’t think you do at all

Posted by HockeytownOverhaul on 09/16/12 at 07:35 PM ET

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It’s in leaguewide revenues increasing by over a billion dollars over a timespan that covered a pretty serious recession.

So then, because ticket prices go up every year and attendance goes up 1-2% a year… that’s growth of the sport?

Come on, JJ.  You know better.  That’s just wringing more money out of the same fan base.

I’d say that the Nashville and Florida examples are convenient throw-ins for two hockey clubs that are a lot better off than the fuzzy Forbes optics are letting on. The Florida Panthers are struggling because the ownership group that’s making millions off being the only game in town and running the all of the entertainment through that arena wants it to look like they’re struggling.  Same deal in Nashville.  The Preds are running all of the entertainment in the Bridgestone while the team claims a loss.

Alrighty then.  If you want to believe that the teams which are struggling only want to look like they are struggling, I don’t really see what point there is in getting too deep into the actual issues.  They don’t matter to you.

Your opinion is short-sighted. 15 years isn’t close to long enough in a market with zero hockey culture to have casual fans even start to raise kids who were born into an era where their city had a hockey team and they can go play for a local youth league.

So an owner is supposed to take a franchise somewhere and eat it for much longer than 15 years before a decision can be made on the long-term viability of the product?

Dude, your opinion isn’t short-sighted, it’‘s out and out blind.  Nobody runs a business that way.

But you’re talking stagnant growth in ratings over a three year period as though it’s any evidence that going from having about a 70% regional exposure of the US population to around a 50% exposure is somehow a good thing for the business.

You don’t seem to understand the realities here.  The opposite of that happened, JJ.  In 1992 the NHL had 22 teams and two of those were in Hartford and Quebec.

20 years later the NHL has 30 teams and all but Winnipeg are in pretty heavily populated areas.

Their regular season games drew a 1.0 on NBC.  The LA Kings have been in existence for 45 years, which ought to have been enough time to drive down roots, even for you.

The LA Kings had the 26th best TV ratings this past year.  The 15th highest attendance.  Which was down from last year.

They tried exactly what you wanted, JJ.  It failed.  That’s why the NHL is trying to get as much of the HRR as they possibly can, because it is by far the biggest available source of money.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 09/16/12 at 08:04 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

So then, because ticket prices go up every year and attendance goes up 1-2% a year… that’s growth of the sport?

Yes. Attendance going up is growth. A billion more dollars in revenue is growth. Why would you try to call it anything else?

So an owner is supposed to take a franchise somewhere and eat it for much longer than 15 years before a decision can be made on the long-term viability of the product?

Why hasn’t the league just folded the Coyotes then? Why hasn’t the league moved them?  Why haven’t the Panthers or Predators left town? Why is there a franchise in Tampa Bay and one in Dallas?  If this is a grand failure, why aren’t these businessmen clamoring to undo those mistakes.  The players have zero say in that decision-making process.

The LA Kings had the 26th best TV ratings this past year.  The 15th highest attendance.  Which was down from last year.

So why haven’t the Kings moved? Why is Los Angeles’ ownership group so happy to own such a crappy franchise in that area?

They tried exactly what you wanted, JJ.  It failed.

If it’s such a spectacular failure (and part of that failure doesn’t have anything to do with the two work stoppages in the last twenty years), then why isn’t there a mass-exodus? Why don’t NHL teams move as often as NBA teams?

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 09/16/12 at 08:10 PM ET

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Yes. Attendance going up is growth. A billion more dollars in revenue is growth. Why would you try to call it anything else?

Because if your argument is that lockouts stifle growth, when the growth that happens is 1-2% attendance wise when there aren’t lockouts I find it pretty hard to take such a notion seriously.

Of course it is technically ‘growth’.  So to would a league making 1 dollar more than the previous year be ‘growth’.

It’s just that it’s not a level of ‘growth’ that is worth worrying about.

Why hasn’t the league just folded the Coyotes then? Why hasn’t the league moved them?  Why haven’t the Panthers or Predators left town? Why is there a franchise in Tampa Bay and one in Dallas?  If this is a grand failure, why aren’t these businessmen clamoring to undo those mistakes.  The players have zero say in that decision-making process.

Those teams by and large haven’t been moved because Bettman is doing exactly what you want him to, JJ.  He is jamming teams into big markets and praying they succeed, even though the vast majority up to the precipice of every single one of them most certainly have not.

Then, after Bettman does what you want him to do you apparently have to whine that he’s done it, and as a result of him doing it he’s going to the mattresses to try and keep doing it.

So why haven’t the Kings moved? Why is Los Angeles’ ownership group so happy to own such a crappy franchise in that area?

Well, aside from McNall being a huge Bettman backer, who happened to force the Kings into bankruptcy in 1995, Anschultz and Roski bought the club out of freaking bankruptcy court.  Who then moved the Kings to the stadium they built, which also houses two NBA teams and other minor teams of various degrees of relevance.

In short, the Kings are a loss-leader write off for a super-rich dude who needs somewhere to stash profits from his actually successful endeavors.

If it’s such a spectacular failure (and part of that failure doesn’t have anything to do with the two work stoppages in the last twenty years), then why isn’t there a mass-exodus? Why don’t NHL teams move as often as NBA teams?

Come on, JJ.  That’s not a particularly insightful question, if you’re even asking it seriously.  Assuming you are and you’re not just trolling me, the NBA can move teams around because they already have the big TV deals.  They already have huge visibility and popularity.  They have all the things the NHL does not.

And it’s not like NBA teams are moving from Atlanta with a metro population of 5.3+ million to Winnipeg with a metro population of 730,000.  Their moves are almost always the result of arena deals not happening, not teams dying on the vine before all our eyes.

The problem isn’t with Bettman’s (and your) strategy, per se.  It was a good idea on it’s face.  Put teams in big markets, hockey takes off in big markets, millions more people watch the NHL, huge TV deal happens, league rockets upwards.

Makes perfect sense, right?

The problem comes from a lack of understanding on his (and your) part that hockey is not likely to ever catch on in non-traditional markets due to saturation.  Very few people in Florida are going to play hockey when they can play football, or basketball, or baseball.  The means to which you claim establishment would occur (kids playing in youth leagues and whatnot) isn’t ever going to seriously engage.

These are things plenty of people (two thumbs pointing at this guy) could see coming way down the road.  My idea would have been to solidify hockey in traditional markets and expand into non-traditional ones.  Slowly.  If it made sense.  Make the hockey people see from out of town look great by having enthused crowds in hot hockey markets.  Have the game itself be the advertisement for bringing it to your town.  What Bettman (and you) wanted was to put the cart before the horse and assume the product would create demand rather than let demand build until it merited the product,

And if it never did, well, then ‘all’ you have is a 24-26 team league in hockey markets that is kicking ass and taking names for it’s fans, not a spread out oil spill across 10 miles of oecan.

Again, we are 15-45 years down the road in non-traditional markets… and they are nowhere.  They get some people in the gates, barely, for the most part.  They get far fewer people watching on TV than most other clubs.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 09/17/12 at 03:45 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Because if your argument is that lockouts stifle growth, when the growth that happens is 1-2% attendance wise when there aren’t lockouts I find it pretty hard to take such a notion seriously.

When are you talking about “When there aren’t lockouts?” Did 04-05 happen in a vacuum?

Then, after Bettman does what you want him to do you apparently have to whine that he’s done it, and as a result of him doing it he’s going to the mattresses to try and keep doing it.

Strawman, next.

Well, aside from McNall being a huge Bettman backer, who happened to force the Kings into bankruptcy in 1995, Anschultz and Roski bought the club out of freaking bankruptcy court.  Who then moved the Kings to the stadium they built, which also houses two NBA teams and other minor teams of various degrees of relevance.

In short, the Kings are a loss-leader write off for a super-rich dude who needs somewhere to stash profits from his actually successful endeavors.

So McNail threw all that money down the tube just because he was Bettman’s buddy? I figured the owners like Bettman, but I didn’t know they liked him enough to bankrup themselves so early into Bettman’s tenure as a favor.

So the Kings are there for the purpose of losing money for themselves, but giving their ownership group a convenient excuse to needlessly run a money-losing operation which somehow benefits them?  Hollywood accounting living in its eponymous birthplace.

The problem comes from a lack of understanding on his (and your) part that hockey is not likely to ever catch on in non-traditional markets due to saturation.  Very few people in Florida are going to play hockey when they can play football, or basketball, or baseball.  The means to which you claim establishment would occur (kids playing in youth leagues and whatnot) isn’t ever going to seriously engage.

Right, because everything that everybody has always liked, they have always liked and will always like.  Florida’s population is about 55% of all of Canada’s population. “Very few people” playing is still better than zero people playing. You don’t need a football-level market share in the states for it to be a market you want to grab nationwide.

These are things plenty of people (two thumbs pointing at this guy) could see coming way down the road.  My idea would have been to solidify hockey in traditional markets and expand into non-traditional ones.  Slowly.  If it made sense.  Make the hockey people see from out of town look great by having enthused crowds in hot hockey markets.  Have the game itself be the advertisement for bringing it to your town.  What Bettman (and you) wanted was to put the cart before the horse and assume the product would create demand rather than let demand build until it merited the product,

There’s another strawman here, but one worth exploring.  I never said I thought the speed at which the 90s expansion plan was the way I would have done it. I don’t find it particularly useful to discuss what I would have done 20 years ago or what the NHL should have done in that timeframe. The discussion is what the NHL should be doing moving forward.

What happened then is past. IF I had a say over the process back then, I also would have expanded slower.  However, my recommendation for moving forward is to move only the Phoenix Coyotes and create a revenue-sharing-heavier CBA with a much more solid basis for creating growth without the need for internally cannibalizing it through labor squabbles.  I would not have the league severely reel and lick the wounds of the mistakes of expansions past, I would have them move forward and continue to cultivate hockey.

Either way, the big clubs will make about the same amount, whether by decreased leaguewide revenues or by increased revenue sharing. Growth in non-traditional markets is a slow, organic, and occasionally explosive process and I think it would be beneficial to the league to have a team in a place where they can benefit from a viral growth rather than waiting for market conditions to be juuuust right and then trying to catch that flash of lighting before it disappears.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 09/17/12 at 04:19 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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