Is An All-Canadian Pro Hockey League Viable?
Unless you have been swimming underneath a frozen pond with the fishes, most hockey fans are aware there have been four NHL labor disputes (one strike and three lockouts) in the past twenty years. These disputes have coincided with the NHL moving its head offices from Montreal to New York City in 1989. Once in New York, voracious corporate lawyer types such as Gary Bettman have been able to get their grubby hands all over Canada’s game and thoroughly annihilate it. Currently, it is the more financially stable Canadian teams which are subsidizing the dirt poor American teams which Bettman Inc. has foisted upon an unsuspecting public. Is it finally time for the Canadian teams to consider bidding adieu to the mutilated NHL and leave the league’s scraps to the vultures who have decimated it? If these Canadian teams can support both themselves and the numerous American welfare recipients created by Bettman Inc., what is stopping them from unloading the dead weight that this scam artist has burdened them with? Canadian cities such as Halifax, Quebec City, Montreal, Hamilton, Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver would give this All-Canadian league teams in ten strong hockey markets off the bat. For how many decades did the NHL operate with the original six teams at a time when population was much lower and there was no technology for marketing purposes? A leaner league would mean a much more interesting one for the fans. Less teams would mean a greater concentration of talent, compared to the bland and watered down NHL of today. Rivals would play each other more often, which would generate automatic interest. Reducing the regular season to approximately 60-65 games would add importance to it – something missing in today’s meaningless regular season. American teams may be offered admittance into the league, but it should be under strict ownership guidelines. Also, best buddies of Bettman Inc. such as Jeremy Jacobs from the Boston Bruins and Ed Snider from the Philadelphia Flyers should be permanently barred from joining the league. Leave them and their union busting methods to their own devices. Taking a page from the highly successful NFL Green Bay Packers model, the teams should be non-profit and community owned. Instead of profits going into owners’ pockets, they would go back to the community and to the teams to be disbursed accordingly. This should also help to keep ticket and concession prices reasonable, since it will eliminate owners who are out to fleece the fans. Just think, no dubious characters such as Edmonton Oilers owner Daryl Katz holding cities hostage until they get what they want. As for the players, in addition to salary, they could be offered shares in their teams as one form of compensation for their services. This will not only make them actual part owners of the team, it will also provide them with greater incentive and sense of loyalty. Why keep relying on a bunch of billionaires who are out to screw players every time another collective bargaining agreement expires? Finding talent would hardly be a problem, since Canada still has the best hockey talent in the world. The most pressing financial concern for the new league would be television revenue, which could be generated in a variety of ways. Deals can be struck with CBC, CTV, cable, satellite and internet carriers. To generate additional revenue, the league can offer on its website a subscription season pass to watch games, such as the NFL does. If Canadian talent is removed from the current league, chances are the American networks will quickly abandon the NHL and possibly even look to swing a deal with the new Canadian league. Recently, a Hamilton vs Syracuse AHL game drew over 18,500 spectators at the Bell Centre in Montreal. This was a minor league game with neither team from the local area! The Canadian market exists and it is waiting for a league which they could call their own. A league that will not be screwed up by lawyer and corporate types. If this idea is based on fantasy, it is no more of a fantasy than the NHL returning to business as usual anytime soon. And if it does, expect another mess five or six years down the road. Oh Canada, what have they done to your national game?