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Cold Hard Rants

Sitting here in my shirtsleeves on October 25th with the sun shining through the windows, a cold thirst quenching slurpee in my hand, a bike ride on my mind, and a day by my pool in my dreams, my thoughts naturally turned to hockey and the NHL. As is my wont, those thoughts were along the lines of how dumb the NHL and its schedule makers are.

This week, I read with bemusement about how the Detroit Red Wings’ proposal to extend the season to 84 games had been rejected by the fellow NHL governors. Only in the NHL would owners be delusional enough to think that more games are the solution to one of the myriad of problems currently plaguing the NHL. Currently the NHL season stretches from September to June. That’s ten months for our readers who are mathematically challenged. Arguably, the coldest city that has an NHL team is Edmonton, Alberta. When the coldest city to house an NHL team only has cold weather for probably 6 months a year, does it not make sense to shorten the season rather than lengthen it? In my humble opinion, a game that is played on a cold surface (i.e. ice) works best when it is cold outside! Fans are in the mood for hockey on a cold winter’s night. No one has ever said, “it’s 95 degrees outside, I don’t want to play golf, or go swimming, or go sit on a patio with a cerveza, I want to watch people skate!”

Now while I am a strong advocate for a shorter NHL season, I am also not naive enough to think that there is a snowball’s chance in hell of this ever happening (pardon the pun). The reason why, comes down to the usual issue when discussing problems with the NHL, namely, dollars and cents. Currently and for the foreseeable future, and despite the Tiny Perfect Commissioner’s best spin efforts, the NHL is referred to as a gate driven league. In short, and taking away all the b.s. around that euphemism, it means that an NHL team receives the majority of their revenue by getting people to pay their way into the arena to see a game. The TV contract with NBC pays each team a percentage of the zero dollars NBC pays the NHL to televise their games. Believe it or not, any percentage of zero dollars equals zero dollars per team. (Again, the help is for our mathematically deficient readers—although if someone would copy and paste that fact to NHL head offices in either Toronto or New York, it might aid in their understanding of the mathematical equation.) To contrast, the NFL pays all of their players’ salaries via the revenue from their TV contract long before they have had one person pay for a ticket to see a game. So, when the Detroit Red Wings want to extend the season by two games, it is a blatant attempt at a cash grab, to help offset the loss of revenue they have experienced by no longer being able to refer to themselves as Hockeytown, a title that was stripped from them when they were unable to sell out playoff games, and this year’s home opener.

Now, as I know from my political days, it is easy to be a critic, but I can hear my readers yelling, what is your solution, Andrew M? The answer is easy (at least to me it is.) Fewer games played in a season would result in those games being viewed as more valuable. More valuable to the team’s season and potential playoff future, and as an intended consequence, the fans would put more value on each individual game. Thus, the team would be able to charge a higher amount for tickets to the games. It’s simple supply and demand, yet this basic economic concept seems lost on the NHL and the owners. When there is only 35 home games per year, they are played during an environmental season that actually befits hockey, and the Tuesday night in February against Atlanta seems a lot more important to the paying public than the Sunday afternoon in April versus Nashville does. Although why there are NHL teams in Atlanta and Nashville in the first place is another issue for another time and day.

For Illegal Curve, I am Andrew M.

About the writer: Formerly a speech writer for a Canadian Federal Politician, Andrew will be bringing his unique take on the hockey world to the illegal curve blog once a week, or more often if the rage needs to be released in a manner other than clobbering a referee over the head with a whiskey bottle. Mainly because he doesn’t have enough empty whiskey bottles at his disposal.