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Columnist: NHL owners are hypocrites

Aug 25, 2012, 11:42 AM EDT

Gary Bettman AP

Lyle Richardson of Spector’s Hockey has written a passionate column called “The Hypocrisy of NHL Owners,” which as you might imagine doesn’t have many nice things to say about the group for which commissioner Gary Bettman works.

A snippet:

In its initial proposal, the league not only sought to reduce the players share of revenue from 57 percent down to 43 percent, but also five year term limits on contracts.

It’s difficult, however, to accept the league’s position at face value when the owners continue to sign players to expensive, long-term contracts in the midst of CBA negotiations.

The most notable example, of course, was the Minnesota Wild signing free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to identical 13-year, $98 million contracts.

Ordinarily, this would be considered quite the coup by the Wild, a club not known for making such expensive forays into the UFA market, successfully wooing this summer’s two best free agents.

No one should begrudge the Wild signing Parise and Suter to those contracts. Their front office deemed it was worth the price to improve their club, and they were operating under the rules of the current collective bargaining agreement. They saw an opportunity to land a couple of “hometown stars”, were willing to pay the big bucks to get them, and will now live with the consequences of those signings, good or bad.

What makes those moves galling, however, was Wild owner Craig Leipold, only three months earlier, decrying his club’s biggest expense was players’ salaries and calling for the system to be fixed.

The column’s making the rounds on Twitter, with high-profile agent Allan Walsh selling it as a “Great Read!”

Walsh is correct that it’s a great read because it’s opinionated and has people talking.

But the question I have is, what should the Wild owners have done? Should they have just let Parise and Suter go to the Red Wings or Flyers or one of the many other interested parties? Because it’s the “rich” teams that set the market, and if the “poor” teams want to participate in free agency, they have to pay the market price.

Now, that being said, there are ways to build a winning team on a budget. Typically it involves drafting well and making “Moneyball” type signings. In baseball, the Oakland Athletics, Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles, and Pittsburgh Pirates are all currently in the playoff hunt despite small payrolls. But when was the last time a penny-pinching franchise won the World Series? Or, for that matter, a Stanley Cup?

Yes, some of the financial disparity between NHL teams could be solved with more revenue sharing, and that will undoubtedly happen. But it won’t solve everything. And remember, there are consequences to too much revenue sharing.

I don’t disagree entirely with Richardson’s take. For example, I think clubs could negotiate a little more aggressively with restricted free agents. (Though that does leave them vulnerable to an offer sheet.)

I just think it’s too easy to tell owners, “Hey, if you don’t want to lose money, don’t spend it.” Would you want to be a fan of a team with that attitude? Would you buy tickets to that team’s games?

“Listen,” Leipold said when asked to justify spending $196 million on Suter and Parise. “We’ve been losing money and the way we were going, we were going to have another year of ‘keep losing more money and more money and more money.’ So if I’m going to make the kind of financial commitment to keep this team and move this forward, I’d rather do it growing it.

“Ultimately that was the decision. As a result of this move, it’s not going to cause us to be financially stable. I believe it will be within a year or two. This is a move to get us out of the hole that we’ve been digging. And as I spoke with some other owners in the league as to why I did it, they totally get it. They understand it. At some point you have to make that kind of commitment in order to turn your franchise around. If we didn’t, then we would just keep losing more going forward without any plan of changing it.”

Related: The problem with the “owners can’t control themselves” argument

  1. tmoore4075 - Aug 25, 2012 at 12:14 PM

    It’s not you don’t want to lose money don’t spend. It’s don’t cry poor and then spend $200mil. And Leipold had to know in April they were gonna try and spend big money in July. A lot of people were questioning whther they would so don’t open your mouth or at least word it better. These guys and politicians have a lot in common. Say one thing at one time but do another later or change your stance cause it suits you better at that time.

  2. icelovinbrotha215 - Aug 25, 2012 at 12:33 PM

    Based on the contracts they are dishing out, including my beloved Flyers, yes. Though I think they are being forced by the ‘have-nots’ when it comes to subsidizing of contracts and spending of money. The Flyers are one of those teams that have no problem spending money. CBJ does. The Bruins have no issue with money. The ‘Yotes do. That’s the problem with the owners. They are divided among themselves.

    • tmoore4075 - Aug 25, 2012 at 12:45 PM

      Right on. I think the big time owners like NYR, DET, PHL and so on have no problem the way things are. The small clubs like CBJ, PHX and NYI do. The big clubs don’t want to revenue share so they just cut the players share of HRR. I don’t think the owners will get everything they want like last time since they are divided on this. Bettman had them in line back in 04-05 and now he doesn’t. Just look at the deals they are handing out. NHL asks for a cap of 5 years on contracts and the Flyers give out a 14 year deal. The Oilers give out a 7 year deal. The Weber deal I get since he was an RFA and they were trying to steal him but Hall getting 7 shows the Oilers want him for longer than 5 years too.

      • icelovinbrotha215 - Aug 25, 2012 at 12:58 PM

        Exactly. The should just implement the revenue-sharing model the NFL has. As a hockey fan also, I don’t want to see smaller markets suffering. You will always have the big spending teams. That’s the reality of sports.

  3. Vintage Hockey Barn - Aug 25, 2012 at 12:57 PM

    Reblogged this on .

  4. andypoo38 - Aug 25, 2012 at 2:40 PM

    This is the very reason that no matter what Bettman and the owners do during this CBA: If a long work stoppage results>>>THEY ARE THE VILLAINS.

    There is NO WAY IN HELL they can justify another prolonged lockout given the players counter-proposal. The players have shown they are willing to make concessions. Buttman and the owners have yet to budge. This is just dead wrong.

    I will boycott EVERYTHING NHL if there is another prolonged work stoppage. The fans ARE THE LEAGUES REVENUE…and this will make the HAT TRICK of work stoppages for Buttman and the owners…I have created a Facebook page called “Boycott the NHL” We have a voice….if we boycott everything NHL the owners will have NO CHOICE but to listen to us…how can they fight over revenue: when there is none?

    I urge all concerned and upset fans to boycott the NHL and force the ignorant and arrogant to LISTEN TO THE CUSTOMER!!!!

  5. killerpgh - Aug 25, 2012 at 3:16 PM

    You could also join the NHLFA (National Hockey League Fans’ Assocation) at http://www.nhlfa.com/index.asp – not sure if it is any better than starting a Facebook page but it has been around for since 1998 and has over 30,000 members.

  6. dayno66 - Aug 25, 2012 at 3:17 PM

    So glad to see someone call out the morons who parrot, “The owners shouldn’t give the players those long contracts if they don’t have money.” if they don’t give out those contracts then the players will sign somewhere else, their team will suck, and they will lose fans and even more money. Im a pirates fan so I know how old the slogan, “we’re not paying these guys that much money gets.”

  7. stakex - Aug 25, 2012 at 4:05 PM

    No suprise most of the NHL owners are Republicans… not only do they spend money like its going out of style and then complain that theres too much spending, but they are a bunch of rich guys sitting around complaining about not being richer. If this goes to a lock out, I don’t see the players taking them blame.

  8. hank10 - Aug 25, 2012 at 4:51 PM

    Sorry, if you want to play with the big boys then you need to pony up when the time comes. If you can’t then sell the team to an ownership who can afford it. Revenue sharing is a poor way to operate a franchise.

  9. islanders1 - Aug 25, 2012 at 6:29 PM

    I tend to agree with the article. If you disagree with the system then stand up and negotiate for 5 year contracts do not sign players for more years and more money. But they all do why because they can not help themselves and need longer term deals with franchise players to try and build a team around them. If the owners want 5 year contract limits then let everyone be a free agent at contract expiry. Take a look at the raises the executives received from the owners these guys are making serious cash in most cases 3 to 4 times the league average for the players. How can they justify this kind of money? If you believe what they are saying they should all be FIRED. Think about it Bettman lead a group that locked players out lost mega revenue and fans took years to rebuild. He now says that contract is not good for the owners. He cost them and the game massive amounts of money for what he now says is a really bad deal! He is as much as saying I did a terrible job last time BOSS (owners) lost you all sorts of money and I negotiated a really bad deal for you. Give me a really big raise and I wont ____ it up this time. Oh by the way we may need to lock the players out again and get all the fans up set and questioning spending their hard earned money on tickets and merchandise. Oh do not worry about the TV contracts TV is over rated……. Any one would be fired if they admitted to such incompetence but instead the owners say to Gary here is your raise $$$$ million now go and get us a better deal because the last one you really ____________ UP. What a joke no wonder these guys lose money!!!

  10. greatminnesotasportsmind - Aug 26, 2012 at 1:58 AM

    Did the Wild have to sign both Parise and Suter? No. But with fan attendance starting to slow down the past 4 years, they had to do something. They went from capping a season ticket waiting list to a few games around the 16,000 mark.

    Should anybody feel bad for Leipold for shelling out 20 million (both Parise and Suter got $10 million in lockout insurance) up front before the lockout? No. I am willing to guess Leipold and the Wild have already make that and then some. Parise’s Wild sweater is the #1 selling jersey since he signed. Season tickets have dramatically gone up since July 4th, and the fans know very well there could be a lockout.

    Bettman has given the fans the finger ever since he has taken over back in 1993. No other commissioner in the HISTORY of SPORTS has ever seen their sport no play twice due to labor problems. We are a little over 2 weeks from that start of the third. The NHL isn’t close to the NFL so there needs to be revenue sharing. The worst sport to follow would be the MLB there is no cap, which is why the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays now have no chance of making the playoffs on opening day. The NBA model is slightly better with the luxery tax, but even then it’s the same handful of teams that win the championship every year and players calling the shots where they want to play. By keeping a hard cap for both the floor and ceiling, makes the NHL more like the NFL with paraody. Ever since the lockout, we have never had the same team win the Stanley Cup. That is why teams like Carolina, Edmonton, and Ottawa has a chance to win the Cup every year or at least play for it.

  11. ray2013 - Aug 26, 2012 at 2:25 AM

    Solid original article, but the link re: the dis-incentivizing nature of revenue-sharing is misleading. The NHL owners can get everything they ask for; 57% of revenues with five-year contracts. There is still going to be some teams that care about winning and some teams that only care about the finances. You’re still going to see smart GMs making smart moves and see dumb GMs make dumb GM moves.

  12. Doesnotmatter - Aug 26, 2012 at 4:33 AM

    like paying Shane Doan 7.5 million per season. Any what is he waiting for? Sign that contract, Shane. Be quick and make sure you get a hefty signing bonus, man. I’ll take my 10 percent, thank you.

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