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Will the new CBA ‘hold up’ the NHL’s struggling franchises over the long haul? Maybe.

The Globe and Mail's Alan Maki asks a question we all know to the answer to this morning, pondering whether the new CBA, achieved at a half-a-season-starving lockout, was really worth it, or whether it will finally address the fundamental flaws still plaguing the NHL's current economic model.

The answer is of course, "No," and the dean of sports economists, Andrew Zimbalist, suggests that the NHL won't truly be solvent until it does indeed cross the Atlantic to establish a European presence, but at first blush, is this thing really going to work?


While the old CBA was chastised, in part, for not doing enough to help the NHL’s weak U.S. teams, hockey people are wondering if the new agreement will do any better addressing the financial disparities between the likes of the New York Rangers and Columbus Blue Jackets. Commissioner Gary Bettman believes it will and has pointed to the negotiated 50-50 hockey-related revenue split with the players and the now $200-million (all figures U.S.) in revenue sharing for needy teams as proof.

Others need convincing. They see a day when teams will be strained to the breaking point by having to pay the salary cap minimum – the floor will be $44-million for the next two years but could rise to $58-million by 2018. That would widen the gap between the rich and struggling franchises, even force relocation. When asked if the new CBA did enough to prevent that, one NHL owner responded flatly to The Globe and Mail, “No.”

[Dallas Stars president Jim] Lites, who will only say the Stars lost “a bunch” of disgruntled season-ticket holders, offered his perspective.

“Every club looks at the CBA differently,” he explained. “The richer teams, they’re upset they have to share at all.”


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I disagree with the premise of the argument.

The point of this CBA isn’t to address financial disparity.  The point of this CBA is to attempt to create a financial environment where teams in mediocre to poor markets can field a fairly competitive team and still be financially viable.

Bettman (stupidly IMO but whatever) wants to do this so that he can put teams in mediocre to poor hockey markets that happen to be huge domestic US television markets in the hope that those markets will eventually transmogrify into good ones and the NHL can get a huge domestic television deal.  I think LA being in LA for 50 years and a whole load of other teams being where they have been for 10-20 soundly disproves the likelihood of such a caterpillar-butterfly thing happening.

Yes, as a side effect to the actual goal we see big market teams hampered to some degree in their ability to spend money.

They see a day when teams will be strained to the breaking point by having to pay the salary cap minimum – the floor will be $44-million for the next two years but could rise to $58-million by 2018.

Well, no duh.  I said this shortly after the last CBA was implemented and the new CBA is no different.  The problem is Bettman has to keep the salary floor/ceiling band fairly narrow in order to continue his Quixotian quest at a TV contract.  If he did the smart thing for the actual game itself he’d have a wide cap/floor spread.  I’m talking 50-60% here.

The problem is while that would alleviate all of the financial pressures on soft market clubs it would also doom them to eternal irrelevance on the ice, which would kill whatever make-believe advances in those markets Bettman or others may believe exist for the NHL.

There are two paths.  One is about making good decisions for the game as it is and understanding what the league is and what it is not.  The other is about trying to force the league into a mold it won’t ever fit and hurting the NHL as a result.  The latter is what Bettman has always chosen.  Always.

The NHL is like Miss… Nebraska, say.  In Nebraska, she’s the hotness.  Bettman is like the frightening stage-mom that tries to make Miss Nebraska into Miss Universe.  She forces Miss Nebraska to get every medical procedure known to man, every tuck every pad and every puffy lip.  Learn how to read without an accent.  Tan 5 hours a day.

She’s never going to be Miss Universe.  You’re either born with that level of hot or you aren’t.  And after trying everything available to modern science all you end up looking like is a freakshow that sort of resembles that girl who won Miss Nebraska once.

That’s what is happening to the NHL right now.

Posted by HockeyinHD on 01/15/13 at 06:15 AM 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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