The Malik Report
by George Malik on 08/06/12 at 06:19 AM ET
Today’s crop of Red Wings-related news is pretty bloody sparse: the Free Press has mentioned the Red Wings’ decision to start a female-only fan club, and DetroitRedWings.com’s Zack Crawford relied on archival quotes to profile former Wing and Maple Leaf Danny Markov in another “Dual Citizenship” article (and file Markov under the long list of defensemen who either suffered career-ending injuries or simply chose to scoot from Detroit despite fitting in just fine), so today’s most noteworthy Wings-related article comes from the Oakland Press’s Pat Caputo, who argues that the battle between owners and players to carve up the proceeds of a $3.3 billion business in a different manner hurts the people who fork over chunks of their discretionary income to pay the owners, teams and players most severely:
Self-control is not easy for management in the NHL. They have circumvented the salary cap by offering outrageous lengths to contracts. Teams with cap room, who don’t land top free agents, are criticized by their fans base for either being cheap, or not presenting an environment attractive to free agents.
Now the league wants to put a cap on the length of contracts. Why? At the crux of the matter is the owners can’t control themselves, so they want a concession from the players. It’s that type of negotiating which frustrates fans to no end.
When the NHL returned after its lost season, it was a struggle to build the league’s already fledgling brand name. Hockey will always have its hardcore fans. They are never the issue, and are incredibly abused in the process of the league trying to expand its horizons. That’s been especially true here in Detroit in regard to everything from not respecting the tradition of the octopuses during the Stanley Cup playoffs to disregarding Original Six lore.
But the NHL has actually been making headway. NBC has bought into the league. It’s new sports network is centered around the NHL. It’s a lot better label to carry around than Versus.
Lately, each sports labor stoppage has held little purpose. A labor stoppage by the NHL, when the agreement between owners and the union expires next month, would definitely fall into that category.
If the league doesn’t play on time, everyone will lose - especially the group that matters most. The relatively few, the very proud and the particularly abused. Hockey fans.
I tend to assume that the people who will be “hurt” the worst are those who earn their living and/or help pay their bills by working part time via “support” or “customer service” jobs, like ushers, concessions workers, security and admissions personnel, rink workers, game-night staff and broadcast, print and web media members who are laid off or plain old told their jobs don’t exist until the game comes back…
But there’s no denying that an NHL that locks out both its players and fans is giving a big middle finger to the people who spend their time, energy and especially their discretionary income following the game and their favorite teams—and as much as we love the logo on the front, people don’t pay another $40-70 to get owners’ names stitched onto the backs of their jerseys.
The Boston Globe’s Kevin Dupont also weighed in on CBA negotiations on Sunday, and he offers an equally unique perspective, arguing that the vicious battle over pennies on the dollar as natural and normal as can be:
Truth is, the existing CBA gave the owners everything they wanted in 2004 and ’05, and now they want more of a good thing — which is to say more of the product they said they needed the players to help grow in a “partnership.’’ But now that the growing has turned bountiful, they want a bigger portion of the harvest and, well, less of a partnership. No surprise. They’re businessmen. They have money, and they want to keep making more and more of it, aided by a dramatic reconfiguration of an existing document that they said seven years ago was essential in producing a better, more profitable product.
There are reasonable, perhaps even essential, tweaks to be made to the 2004-05 CBA. The ebb and flow of business almost guarantees every CBA must change, for a variety of reasons, especially in an age when constant discoveries and innovations in technology provide new business opportunities and potential growth in revenue streams. We weren’t watching NHL games on our wristwatches in October 2005.
What the owners need most today is not a radical new deal with the players, but a new way of dealing with themselves. They need to find a more honest, equitable, dare we say visionary method of spreading the profit and wealth among the 30 guys on their team. The 800 or so union members who play for their teams aren’t the problem, not anymore.
The existing deal guaranteed owners parity on payroll via fixed labor costs. The game itself is balanced, with the playoffs a two-month roulette tournament, offering almost an equal chance among the 16 qualifiers to win the Cup. And the financial growth model works, quite well, considering seven seasons of the current CBA produced 50 percent more in income than the league could build in the years 1917-2004. Amazing growth, when comparing the last seven years with the previous nine decades.
This is a deal that needs to be nipped and tucked. That’s all. The big issues can be pared, middled, modified, massaged, which inevitably means some shift in wealth back to the owners — not unlike what happened in the NFL and NBA.
To find the reasonable “middle’’ now, it’s up to the owners to find a better way of sharing the cigars, cognac, Lamborghinis, and private jets, all the spoils that come with a thriving business. If they shut down the game again, it’s truly on them this time. The current deal proved them right. They’ve both grown the game’s popularity and lifted the tide of revenue. They got their business in order and now they need to prove to be equally astute in sharing and managing their profits. That’s really not a labor issue. It’s an ownership, greed, avarice issue. They asked the workers to fix it last time, and they capitulated. Now it’s their turn. Time for the owners to stop pointing fingers at the players, get a mirror, and add a little creativity to their look.
I hate to admit that even this NHLPA supporter believes that the players will almost inevitably end up giving a chunk of their share of revenues to the owners, but I do believe that their share of revenues will drop to somewhere closer to 50%. The question is what the NHL’s 730 or so employees who provide the product we all follow so passionately receive in return from their estranged “partners” in terms of a say in the governance of the game, or at least a significant decline in the money they end up giving back to the league in escrow withholdings.
• As pointed out by Pro Hockey Talk’s Ryan Dadoun, Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area’s Kevin Kurz doesn’t believe that Shane Doan’s a viable option for the San Jose Sharks given his “reported” salary demands—which, again, gain more and more credence with each and every repetition thereof in terms of salary and term:
Reports have suggested that Doan is seeking a four-year deal worth $30 million, for an annual cap hit of $7.5 million.
An NHL source has informed CSNCalifornia.com that if those demands are true, the Sharks will not be among his suitors, and that San Jose will not offer more than a three-year deal for approximately $4.5 million a season.
Still, if Doan wants to remain close to Phoenix without actually playing there, his options could be limited. San Jose and Vancouver are the only Western Conference teams said to be pursuing Doan, along with Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, New York and Buffalo in the East.
• Lest I forget, the latest installment of Stevie Roxelle’s Biscuit Fox is out today;
• If it matters, from the Vernon Morning Star’s Kevin Mitchell...
Notes, quotes and anecdotes from the wonderful world of golf…
They needed a one-hole playoff in Ken Holland’s annual derby up at Predator Ridge Golf Resort two weekends ago.
Vernon Panther hoop grad Steve King, a member at Predator, and fellow member Brad Lay, a Medicine Hat Tiger alumnus, defeated ex-NHLers and Vernon products Jeff Finley and Matt Higgins by parring the 18th hole at the Ridge course.
Finley, now a scout with the Detroit Red Wings based out of Kelowna, and Higgins, married and working in Calgary after a solid European career, bogeyed the extra hole. Both teams shot scorching 21-under over three rounds.
• And absent any CBA bombshells this week, news about Tomas Holmstrom’s future, Winter Classic Alumni game roster additions, an announcement of a re-signing of Justin Abdelkader or the eventually inevitable signing of a free agent band-aid on defense, I’m guessing that this may be the slowest week of Wings news of the entire summer. I know that’s not exactly what you want to hear, but for people who try to cover the game on a year-round basis (or in my case, as close to year-round as my health permits), this is really our only “vacation” from a pretty relentless news cycle.
In my case, between shifting from massive playoff disappointment to the World Championships, Nicklas Lidstrom’s retirement, the Stuart trade, the NHL Awards, the draft, free agency, the summer prospect camp and CBA stuff, my “offseason” didn’t really begin until two days before my vacation started, and the longer things stay “slow,” the more time I have to finally recharge my mental and physical batteries before what should be an incredibly intense first half of the regular season thanks to the Wings’ participation in the Winter Classic and the various scheduled lead-up events.
My goals for this month involve staying on top of international news, trying to conduct some follow-up interviews with the players and team personnel who took part in the summer prospect camp and hopefully gearing up for a prospect tournament/training camp fund drive as the Wings’ players and prospects slowly filter back into Metro Detroit over the last two weeks of this month, but for now, even as I continue to check nearly a hundred websites a day for Wings news, slow is a welcome relief.
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About The Malik Report
The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.