Next week, my law firm will be hosting a holiday party for its employees. It’s that time of year when the partners at the firm acknowledge their team’s effort. It’s when they put business aside and share a drink with their bread and butter and say “thank you”. Thank you for your efforts. Thank you for doing the work that affords myself and my family financial prosperity and stability. Thank you for being as important to my success as I am. It is the right thing to do. It is an act of humility executed by an owner of any business whose financial life depends on those people. Sadly, this is a practice that NHL owners are unfamiliar with and it is this mind set that keeps the NHL lockout in full bloom.
In a dire move, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has now gone as far as to suggest that the NHL owners and players meet face-to-face without any representation from either side. This would mean that Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby and Boston Bruins owner, Jeremy Jacobs would have to play nice behind closed doors. It would pit bloated employer versus abused employee without any legal buffer. It would actually be a good idea if BOTH sides stood to lose something. But in this fight, only the players are losing. These NHL owners hold all the cards because they continue to be masters of the universe with or without the game of hockey.
Most people think that owning a sports franchise in the biggest thing in these owners’ lives, but for many it ranks just above their 14th Ferrari. Owning a NHL hockey team, unless it is the Toronto Maple Leafs or Montreal Canadiens, is nothing like owning a NFL football team. Football owners are making huge sums of money off their franchises and network deals that it is always in the best interest of their bottom line to ensure there is no work stoppage. Most hockey owners own their team for one of the following reasons:
- They could not buy a NFL or MLB team
- They can park it in their garage of toys and acquisitions for their friends to see
- It is a small part of their conglomerate
- They need a tax shelter for their primary business
- It’s fun to say, “I own a hockey team.”
Whatever the reason these owners purchased their respective franchise, there is one reason they did not buy into the NHL: To make a living.
New York Rangers owner Jim Dolan does not need the Blueshirts to pay for his Hampton home. He gets plenty from his Cablevision subscribers as well as owning Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall and the New York Knicks. The same goes for Philadephia Flyers boss, Ed Snider, who holds majority ownership in Comcast and Wells Fargo Center. Don’t think New York Islander’s owner, Charles Wang, is losing any sleep or money because his team is not lacing them up. His technology juggernaut, Computer Associates, ensures his membership to the boys club remains intact. Mike Illitch (pictured) of the Detroit Red Wings also gets to stay in that same club as his Little Caesars (Pizza! Pizza!) empire continues to make him money money.
No NHL owner will suffer the loss of a villa, a mansion, a yacht or a string of polo ponies because the players are yet to meet their parental-like demands. Not a single one will suffer if the entire season is cancelled.
Stayed tuned for Part II to find out who is really suffering from this lockout because it’s not just the fans.