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Read one columnist’s five-point plan to save the NHL

Aug 16, 2012, 4:30 PM EDT

Jets fans

Sportsnet’s Michael Grange has a five-point plan to solve the NHL’s problems that includes a 50-50 revenue split between owners and players, the contraction of two teams with two others moving to Canada, the limiting of player contracts to four years, and “meaningful” revenue sharing.

It’s worth a read, particularly the part about contraction and moving teams to Canada — a suggestion that never fails to infuriate fans of the contraction/relocation targets.

“On one hand you have Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which — on-ice performance aside — is perhaps the most sophisticated sports ownership group on the planet,” writes Grange. “According to Forbes, the Leafs’ 2010–11 operating income of $81.8 million nearly matched the next two most lucrative operations — the Rangers and Canadiens — combined. (And if you’re looking for a staggering figure, the other 27 teams combined for $44.4 million in operating losses.)

“On the other hand you have the New York Islanders, who could hold a rat rodeo in the bowels of the decrepit Nassau Coliseum and have taken John Tavares hostage. Phoenix is Phoenix. Columbus is a joke, and Florida can barely draw Canadians during March Break. But what if we chopped two teams and moved two more? More revenue for the league and the players to share, and less bad news for the rest of us. No-brainer.”

Also worth a read is Grange’s take on the NHLPA’s offer to the NHL, an offer he calls “cloaked in the spirit of compromise” but one with “some very sharp teeth.”

  1. bcisleman - Aug 16, 2012 at 4:44 PM

    Grange is an idiot. JT signed because he likes the organization. He WANTS to be an Islander. The NVMC needs a renovation or a rebuild, but that seems unlikely unless the federal govt offers stimulus dollars for central Nassau. They will probably go to Brooklyn or Queens in 2015.

    • vindicatus - Aug 16, 2012 at 5:41 PM

      The Islanders and the Blue Jackets are disasters, but aren’t the Leafs also a disaster? How about the Flames or the Oilers? Teams fall on hard times, and then they rebuild and become contenders again. Being located in Canada does not immunize a team against sucking, so this “plan” is just more jingoistic nonsense from people that think that hockey should only be played in Canada. At least Phoenix and Florida made the playoffs, which is more than can be said for the majority of Canadian teams.

      Maybe we should have moved the Penguins when they sucked for how many years straight? I understand the fervor for Quebec to have a team again, but, honestly, where else are are you going to add teams to Canada? Is Columbus really a less desirable location than Iqaluit? I agree with above; Grange is an idiot.

      • claysbar - Aug 16, 2012 at 8:26 PM

        jingoistic? Good for you

      • atwatercrushesokoye - Aug 16, 2012 at 8:39 PM

        The Leafs, Flames and Oilers all make money and all of them sold out every single home game last year, they’re not performing on the ice but economically they’re pillars of stability for the NHL.

      • sal1117 - Aug 17, 2012 at 7:14 AM

        Right, I still cannot believe The Atlanta Thrashers were moved by buttman to a Minor League city, with a Very MINOR League arena, and minor league fans… Where will “they” be when they NEVER win and they will NEVER win !

        There should be LESS teams in canada, out with Flames, back to Atlanta !!!!!!!!!!!,
        Oilers, to Kansas City and Minor League team merged with Flames and return to Atlanta !!

        Maybe no vancouver as well, send them to Houston. But the NHL needs to be BACK IN ATLANTA ASAP ! If we had good owners, they would have sold out every game.

        Hell, Atlanta attendence beat that Minor League town even in their last season…

        Quit LYING buttman, put hockey BACK IN ATLANTA ! You OWE US FOR YOUR LIES !!!!

      • withseidelinn - Aug 17, 2012 at 8:32 AM

        He clearly stated he isn’t talking about on ice performance. Phoenix only gets fans when they make the playoffs which has only been for the last 3 years. He’s talking about regardless of how bad the Canadiens, Oilers and Leafs are, they will still sell out because Canadians love hockey so much. If you read the article properly, you would realize that teams like the Islanders, Panthers, Blue Jackets, the list goes on, are all losing substantial amounts of money because they’re fan base is so small.

      • withseidelinn - Aug 17, 2012 at 8:34 AM

        sal1117…. are you serious? Take the NHL out of Vancouver? This is the city that rioted because their team lost in the cup final. Edmonton and Calgary are both hockey hotbeds as well. I don’t think you understand the NHL at all.

      • nhmac - Aug 17, 2012 at 9:39 AM

        mad props for the Iqaluit reference

      • supr49er - Aug 17, 2012 at 11:46 AM

        sal1117 – Dude Atlanta lost TWO teams, no need for the hat trick.

  2. mervsvikes - Aug 16, 2012 at 5:31 PM

    I don’t give 2 rips how big your city is, how much you like your team, or how nice your facility is, if you cannot fill the facility then get out of the league.

    • greatminnesotasportsmind - Aug 16, 2012 at 7:32 PM

      The cure for bad attendance is winning. Maybe we should move Minnesota because they have sucked for 4 years and attendance is dangling around 16,000. That’s your logic, and it’s not a smart logic.

      • toxicjuan - Aug 21, 2012 at 12:26 AM

        aside from approximately 10 years of sellout crouds?

  3. ray2013 - Aug 16, 2012 at 5:36 PM

    From all the talk, it’s possible that Quebec City would be able to support an NHL team. But where would they even put a second team? Southern Ontario is a logical place, given the population, but to move a team there would require support from the Leafs and the Sabres, so that’s not going to happen. Saskatoon? With all due respect, that city can’t support a CFL team, nevermind an NHL team. Doesn’t make a lot of sense as a suggestion.

    • eastcoastcynic - Aug 16, 2012 at 6:05 PM

      It’s not a Canadian City, but if we get the OK to build the arena, Seattle would make a fitting second city. A city AHL Wolves owner Don Levin referred to as the best market without an NHL franchise.

      • ray2013 - Aug 16, 2012 at 10:03 PM

        Seattle does seem like a logical choice to have a team, given their location. You’d pretty much have a west coast division with Vancouver and the California teams.

        West coast teams get the shaft on travel, but Vancouver and Seattle are close enough that it wouldn’t be too onerous. I like the suggestion for Seattle much better than Saskatoon or southern Ontario. They’d just need an arena.

    • atwatercrushesokoye - Aug 16, 2012 at 8:42 PM

      I heard something a few months ago that the NHL doesn’t actually need the okay from the Sabres and Leafs to move a team to Hamilton (they might need the Leafs okay for Markham) but the NHL is scared of angering their biggest cash cow so they don’t want to do it.

    • cardsandbluesforever - Aug 17, 2012 at 7:16 PM

      Quebec City is building a brand new NHL quality rink, the deal was announced a few months ago. the drawings make it look like a very nice facility. they are building it with no promises of an NHL team in the hopes they will get first dibs on one that becomes avaliable. extremely passionate fan base , new facility, and a strong canadian economy make quebec city a no brainer for relocating a team to a canadian market. right now for them its a build it and they will come situation.

      now the other potential marketplaces for a team in canada are not all that appealing from an owner standpoint- the cities just arent large enough to support revenue goals.

      on the other hand seattle would be a very good city to relocate a second team to. large population, large tv market, people up there are desperate for thier own team and have been for a while. not sure what venue the team would play in but we could expect a commitment to build a nhl specific venue to be completed within 3-4 years of moving. the money is there, the desire is there. for seattle its if they come we’ll build it situation.

      • ray2013 - Aug 19, 2012 at 12:16 AM

        I’ve only been to Quebec City once, so I don’t know the state of their proposed arena, but it does make sense as a potential market. I don’t see another Canadian market nearly as appealing, unless you build in Southern Ontario, in which case Buffalo and the MLs will have an issue. I don’t know how many more prospective markets there are left, actually. Seattle, QC and that’s it.

  4. scottfmullin - Aug 16, 2012 at 6:11 PM

    Uh, the league hates moving teams, and I’m sure it hates folding teams even more. That’s the only reason why the Coyotes are still in Phoenix. And btw, the Panthers have no shot of going anywhere now. Maybe a few years ago, but no longer.

    • greatminnesotasportsmind - Aug 16, 2012 at 7:36 PM

      Panthers are a team on the rise, winning cures everything.

      I’m not from Florida, but I spend a 1/3 of the year there. There is nothing better than looking at Bank Atlantic Center coming in from Aligator Alley.

      • claysbar - Aug 16, 2012 at 8:30 PM

        You spend 4 months of the year in Florida and the best thing you see is a building? Come on!!

      • paperlions - Aug 17, 2012 at 8:30 AM

        That’s the problem, teams that require winning for fan support will spend a large portion of their time not winning as ownership tries to balance income and expenditures. If such teams have a down year, attendance goes down, revenues go down, and the team spends less…..those teams have to wait for a rebuild to make money again.

    • cweez2 - Aug 17, 2012 at 9:42 AM

      The players (or more accurately the NHLPA) won’t be a fan of moving, much less contraction. Less teams, less players. It’s why they floated the luxury tax proposals to keep smaller teams afloat. The league was too big to start with, but killing this Frankenstein isn’t as easy as just folding teams. Hard for a league to do that when a few months ago Bettman was touting the revenue growth and new TV deals.

  5. shilo221 - Aug 16, 2012 at 6:31 PM

    I’d think Portland, OR has to be right there. They have a huge fan base and have sold out the Rose Garden which is an NBA/NHL quality arena. They were also front runners for the Penguins when they were “on the move”. If a city sells out an arena for a losing basketball team and a WHL hockey game it can support an NHL team. For the record, the Portland Rosebuds were the first American team to play for the Stanley Cup back in 1916…Seattle was the first American City to win the cup too. The Pacific North West deserves a team. Much more history and potentially tally great fan base that everything a couple current team cities.

    • handsofsweed - Aug 16, 2012 at 9:41 PM

      Man, you were on a roll, until that last sentence. It’s like you had a brain injury affecting part the of the brain your controls that speech.

  6. lightningstrikes04 - Aug 16, 2012 at 7:13 PM

    Isn’t the whole idea behind having franchises in non-traditional hockey markets supposed to be a long term profitability thing. Look, it would be really easy to take the teams away from Florida, Columbus, Phoenix, and 1 of the NY teams and move them to Canada, where your guaranteed profitability in the short term. It is far more difficult to look at the big picture of the sports sustainability, and understand that in order to grow a sport, you must create it, in some non-traditional areas. In order to do that you set up a league similar to the one they have now, where the talent is evenly dispersed and there is true parity in picking a winner at the end of the year. When a team like Tampa is successful, as they were in ’04 and ’10, you gain not only a more successful franchise as far as profitability and a loyal fan base, but a more successful and fruitful youth program which builds the sport. The point is, in a Canadian market, these teams can succeed, however there is a cap to how profitable you can be. But, in a non-traditional market you build not only your franchise but the sport, and then you add teams in other non-traditional market.

    • lightningstrikes04 - Aug 16, 2012 at 7:20 PM

      Your profitability is then endless. I know its looking at the world through rose colored glasses, and I know that at some point you have to pull the plug on a franchise that is basically a dog with fleas, however, the visionaries that expanded this sport into the non-traditional markets were looking at far more long-term profitability then someone such as this writer, who wants to move 2 more teams into Canada. The NHL is based in NY and is an American league, and this is an American league playing a Canadian sport, so to grow it you need dedicated owners that are willing to sacrifice for now, and gain later.
      A perfect example of this is the Lightning ownership, and I’ve never been more proud to be a Lightning fan in my life.
      GO BOLTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!(Just had to throw that in there)

      • atwatercrushesokoye - Aug 17, 2012 at 12:28 AM

        Grange used some tricky math in his statement that “27 other teams combined to lose $44.4 million” first off he took out 3 teams but 9 other teams were profitable, so why’s he including them into the other teams losing money? And also the Coyotes were by far the biggest money loser at $25 million, so couldn’t you say the top 26 of the next 27 combined to lose $19.4 million? He’s muddying the water to prove his point, and the problem is that detracts from whatever valid point he had.

        I see your point about growing the game in general and it’s certainly a valid one, players are starting to come from “non traditional” markets which means the grassroots of the game are taking hold to a degree, but in some of the newer (last 20 years) that hasn’t translated to the NHL level. My question would be how long do you lose some of these teams there? Phoenix for example has lost money all 16 years they’ve been down there, and the Arizona Republic did a study which came to the conclusion that there’s pretty much no hope of the team ever turning a profit in that market, how does it grow the NHL to keep that franchise there when there are other markets in both Canada and the US where that team could be profitable?

        If the goal is to grow hockey at grassroots levels the NHL should maintain status quo, maybe it will pay off one day, but if the goal is to grow the NHL product then the NHL should be looking seriously at contraction and relocation for several teams.

    • atwatercrushesokoye - Aug 16, 2012 at 8:46 PM

      Did Tampa make money in 2004? They didn’t in 2010, so after 20 years you’re still unprofitable you need to look into whether the original long term plan was correct. Not picking on Tampa, just used them because that’s the example you brought up.

      • lightningstrikes04 - Aug 16, 2012 at 10:48 PM

        My point is it’s not about the profitability of the individual franchise, but the profitability of the sport as a whole. I believe the article is quoted as saying 27 teams last year combined for $44.4 million in operating loss, and apparently the league is in an upward swing as a whole. I don’t know, maybe this whole thing could be solved by merging the CHL and the NHL and moving all of the teams, excluding the Rangers, of course, to Canada. I don’t know numbers and don’t really want to put any more time into this post to look them up, but in my opinion, after going to games in ’09, and then being there in ’10 and ’11, the fan base has never showed up like they have since the run in 2010 and now we have a stadium that is one of the best in the league. The ownership in Tampa is looking at long term sustainability of the franchise and the sport, and not 2011’s operating income. I just think it’s incredibly closed minded to think that any more teams need to be crammed into Canada where their literally running out of cities that could support a franchise.

      • handsofsweed - Aug 17, 2012 at 10:32 AM

        Look, lightning, you have to stop with this “2010” playoff run stuff. Go back LESS THAN 2 YEARS AGO and you will see that you all went on that run in 2011. Not knowing your own very, very, very recent history can’t be a hallmark of your fanbase. If it is, then that’s symptomatic one of the biggest reasons you’ll always have the probs atwater speaks of: lack of an even remotely dedicated fanbase.

        I like Tampa’s unis a lot, they have kinda grown some tradition and they have a handle (in the FO and coaching staff, anyway) on what they’re doing to build a winner, so I’m not mashing on you/them. You guys aren’t far off.

  7. blomfeld - Aug 17, 2012 at 1:26 AM

    GO AHEAD YOU “WEALTHY” PARASITES …

    If the owners and players want to play the game of greed, then good for them I say ! Nonetheless, these people had better dare not come running back to us fans asking for forgiveness when the time comes to reap that which they’ve sown …

    Now on a more somber and relevant note, it was 35 years ago today that Elvis passed away. I remember that day like it was only yesterday, as it was my first day of work “as a man” after high school. I heard “something” on the car radio while driving home from my first new job ? … and then it hit me like a freight train when I got home and saw the news on TV. It was devastating for me, even as an 18 year old punk, who should have been more concerned with the likes of Led Zeppelin and Nazareth ? But I loved Elvis then, just as I do now … though today, my love for him is that much more profound and deeper, given the “fermenting” and “appreciating” effect of time …

    So if these wealthy parasites are indeed about to destroy our sport due to their collective greed, then so be it. For me, nothing will ever erase the glorious memory of the LA Kings triumphing as Stanley Cup Champions in 2012 ! … just as I will never part with my love for Elvis Presley …

    • habsman - Aug 17, 2012 at 1:20 PM

      I feel your pain blomfeld. You appear to be a true fan of the King. And congrats on the Kings.

      • blomfeld - Aug 17, 2012 at 10:11 PM

        thank you habsman … yes, I love Elvis and the Los Angeles Kings … and I always will, as they’re both a part of me …

  8. sportmentary - Aug 19, 2012 at 11:44 PM

    How do you save the NHL? Don’t have a lockout!

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