Lets start by agreeing that Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has a good, cursory understanding of the NHL lockout and the business reasons behind it.
Cuban, also a Dallas Stars season ticket holder and a legitimate fan of the NHL product, called it a Civil War between the northern hockey franchises turning a tidy profit and the southern Sun Belt teams that have always struggled to thrive in non-traditional markets.
NHL Franchises like Carolina and Tampa Bay have managed to buck that trend to a large degree and been the model of NHL success in the South, but even those teams rarely make money. Franchises in Florida, Phoenix, Dallas and Nashville among several others have endured their share of struggles along the way while losing millions upon millions of dollars. They are the poster children of franchises struggling after the NHL forced them into non-traditional markets.
"When you have all your southern franchises basically sucking wind, there's a message there that you have to fix it. I mean, you have two different worlds; the north and the south. It's kind of like the civil war right now going on, and it's got to be fixed, said Cuban to CSNNE.com. So, yeah I'd cringe more as a hockey fan. I'd cringe more if they don't fix it. Just like the last one, it's only been like seven years right? But I even wrote a blog back then that they should have fixed it, and they didn't."
So how do you fix it? Thats the million dollar question.
Perhaps Cuban should start cringing because the NHL isnt doing nearly enough to solve the problem.
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When a top-heavy league like the NHL has teams like the Maple Leafs, Canadians, Rangers, Bruins and Blackhawks that need wheel barrels for all the cash theyre taking in, its a business model screaming for revenue sharing.
The Maple Leafs franchise was estimated to be worth 1 billion by Forbes Magazine. Thats more than any single NBA franchise is worth, and the Leafs also were reported to have made well over 100 million on profit last season. Add on top of that a 2 billion TV deal over 10 years that the NHL has signed with the NBC Network.
Its an inexcusably major flaw in the NHLs business model when one learns that the Bettman and Co. have only 11 percent revenue sharing within the leagues business structure. The NBA is considered the NHLs sister league and closest business model, and their system shares 30 percent of revenues between the have and have not franchises.
Thats what sports owners do when theyre interested in preserving the long term health and wellness of their league rather than relying on constant claw backs from the players.
The NFL is in a whole different stratosphere given their TV deal and massive streams of revenue, and they actually share roughly 80 percent of the leagues revenue.
Yet the NHL has seemed extremely disinterested in significantly raising their revenue sharing amounts, and thus far has bumped things up nominally to 200 million in the next proposed CBA. The players wanted at least 275 million in revenue sharing and were pushing for something upwards of 300 million in the next CBA, as well as provisions that would allow a team like the Islanders to qualify for revenue sharing even if theyre considered a big market franchise.
Early in this summers CBA negotiations Bettman called the revenue sharing component a distraction to the rest of the talks. That doesnt exactly sound like a league thats trying to permanently fix a business model Cuban correctly described as sucking wind in noted hockey hotbeds like Sunrise, Florida and Glendale, Arizona.
Instead it would appear these CBA negotiations are simply lining the pockets of the owners already thriving, and tossing a few more throwaway scraps to the poor southern franchises the league is supposedly holding the lockout for in the first place.
Heres a scary thought: the sucking wind NHL franchises are the very ones that will likely fold or relocate if the league ends up canceling the entire 2012-13 season. It seems almost a fait accompli that markets like Quebec City, Seattle and the suburbs of Toronto will be receiving teams in the future, and perhaps this is the final nail in the coffin before franchises like Florida, Phoenix and others move to those more favorable outposts.
Heres another scary thought: unless the NHL fixes these issues by evening out the fiscal landscape with a much larger, more all-encompassing revenue sharing component to the CBA, these problems are still going to be dragging down the NHL eight, nine or ten years from now when the league is back in lockout mode again.
So is the NHL looking for a quick fix and a quick buck or really searching for the needed sutures and gauze to stitch up their business model?
Thats up to everybody to decide, but you can probably guess where this humble hockey writer is leaning toward.