from Damien Cox at the Toronto Star,
The biggest change (other than style of play) since the day Bettman ascended the throne is that the NHL has ceased to be a hockey league as we once understood the term. It’s now an industry, with 32 outlets across North America that sell the sport 41 times a year in their home arenas, not counting exhibition and playoff games. They breathlessly churn out merchandise — with as many third and retro and reverse-retro styles as possible — to the point where sometimes it feels like that’s their main business.
More than any other time in NHL history, these outlets and their 50/50 partners, the players, are engaged in exactly the same enterprise and selling the exact same product. What was once a cloistered six-team league, then a disorganized 12-team league, then a 21-team league of widely disparate interests, is now a massive blob with 32 teams and a singular focus.
It has become nearly impossible to accurately perceive whether this sprawling industry is as successful, less or more compared to other times. If you could buy publicly traded NHL stock, you might be able to crunch the numbers as folks are doing with Elon Musk’s Twitter. But the NHL just is.
That’s why last week’s report that NHL television numbers are down 22 per cent in United States is difficult to put into context without additional information on streaming, cord-cutting and the impact of regional blackouts. Other than noting the return of ESPN has been more hype than substance, it’s hard to reach any conclusions.
Meanwhile, the NHL held its ridiculous all-star weekend one more time and undoubtedly sold more merch. It used to be that controversies and intriguing stories would come out of the event. Now it’s mostly plaudits and profiles, fake comedy skits and fake effort. And sell, sell, sell.
I have called it “NHL, Inc.”, for years.
It appears to be a windfall for owners, having legislated themselves out of competing with each other in a way that limits expenditures and pits player vs player for salary.
The league’s top echelon management of franchises' finances defines “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs."
Man, he’s not wrong about any of this IMO and it’s a big reason I’ve lost so much interest in NHL hockey. I used to watch any game I could, any two teams, any network back in the day and now that idea is laughable. My life is different, the league is for sure different (teams all play basically the same, I’ve noticed), and it doesn’t help when your favorite team has been garbage for most of a decade.
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