by PuckStopsHere on 09/12/10 at 12:43 AM ET
To paraphrase former US presidential candidate John Edwards, there are two NHLs. In one NHL, big market teams make millions and millions of dollars a year. These teams drive the NHL’s revenues and have no problem paying salaries that are as close to the salary cap as possible. These are the teams that hire full-time capologists to try to find loopholes in the NHL’s salary cap that they can use to their advantage. The other NHL is a growing group of teams that are dependent upon revenue sharing to stay afloat. These are teams that routinely lose money and often struggle to have payroll that meets the NHL salary floor.
One team that finds itself in the poor group this season is the St Louis Blues. An investment group led by Dave Checketts (former Madison Square Gardens president) bought the Blues in 2006. This investment group was backed by TowerBrook Capital Partners, who held as much as 75% of the club ownership.
TowerBrook is backing out of their ownership in St Louis. They first announced their desire to do so in May, at the conclusion of the Blues 2009/10 NHL season. The TowerBrook group claims that they have lost money every year they have been involved with the St Louis Blues. This leaves Dave Checketts looking for an investor to keep the St Louis Blues afloat. At this point, TowerBrook says they are not backing out entirely until new owners are found.
However, it is clear that St Louis is not in a situation to take on an increase in payroll. Last year’s team has lost the salaries of Keith Tkachuk (who retired), Paul Kariya (who will miss this season due to post-concussion syndrome) and Chris Mason (who left via free agency). Their lone major addition is Jaroslav Halak, who might help the team move forward in the standings this year and will likely prevent any regression. CapGeek lists St Louis as the team with the fourth lowest payroll in the upcoming season.
St Louis is another example of a team with financial problems in the NHL. They join Phoenix, Atlanta, Florida, NY Islanders, Columbus, Nashville and others. Some of these financially troubled teams are in worse shape than St Louis, but the Blues are not in good shape. The weak half of the NHL including the Blues is in bad shape. This is one of the legacies of Gary Bettman.
The St Louis financial issues have not been well reported around the NHL. Here is one of the better articles on the situation. The lack of reporting of the St Louis financial system follows a well-established pattern that NHL financial problems do not get significant mainstream media attention unless they become so significant that they cannot be ignored (as in Phoenix). The St Louis Blues are clearly a team with financial issues.
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