So the NHL is trying everything in their power to rush back to playing in spite of a world pandemic and medical experts and scientists warning about the high risk of a second wave worse than the first one. They are so desperate that they are ready to do so by playing in empty arenas, losing out on tickets, concession, parking and souvenirs revenues at 16 arenas across Canada and the United States. Is anyone really surprised by that? We’re talking here about a league that’s been trying hard, since the arrival of Gary Bettman as Commissioner, to surpass the NBA and MLB, trying to get closer to the NFL in the hearts of fans in the US. All in the name of notoriety and money.
For years, the NHL has spent millions keeping the Arizona Coyotes in Glendale because of its location, a mediatic hub. They even ran the franchise for a while, when they were searching for owners who would agree to keep the team in Arizona. When you think that it’s the same league, the same NHL who didn’t blink an eye when it came to let go of the Winnipeg Jets and Quebec Nordiques, two Canadian hotbeds of hockey, it’s rather easy to see the two weights, two measures. The league now has even found ways for richer owners to give away money to keep those struggling markets in their current locations.
Las Vegas Golden Knights case
Yes, they paid a hefty price to get into the NHL. Yes, it’s a market with no other major professional teams. Yes, the NFL was looking at Vegas for their own relocation. But what respectable league will stack up an expansion team to the point of making the playoffs in their first year? Worse, what respectable professional league will have that expansion team make it to the finals, ahead of teams that have been battling it out for years, paying their dues? Asking the question is answering it. Yes, the NHL succeeded in creating excitement in Vegas in their first season. Yes, they beat the NFL to the punch but if you think for a second that they will remain ahead of the Raiders as they’re about to start up, you better be prepared to be disappointed.
The NHL took a huge hit to their credibility by having an expansion team having that much success right off the bat. It clearly showed how little credibility and security they have when owners and Commissioner bend over backwards at their own expenses. It was laughable. It still is laughable.
Yet, in spite of those efforts, the NHL is still nowhere close to the NBA and MLB in the heart of Americans, and they can’t even begin to dream about coming anywhere close to the NFL. As a matter of fact, the NHL is closer to Australian Rules Football than they are to the NBA when it comes to profits.
Why 24 teams playoffs
With trying to rush to get the playoffs going in spite of the pandemic, the NHL is about to repeat the same mistake… in the name of money. They’re once again trying to beat all other pro sports to the wire by starting before them, hoping to capitalise on sports’ fans interest and that, at the risk of their own players… in the name of money.
Have you ever stopped to think as to why the NHL decided to include teams that were all but mathematically eliminated? Money. More teams, more fans to watch. But why go to 24? Why not 20? Look which team is sitting 24th. Yes, the Montreal Canadiens, one of the NHL’s biggest market, the mecca of hockey. Furthey, by going to 24 teams, the league adds two big US markets in Chicago and Minnesota, and the ever struggling market of Arizona. That’s right. All money driven.
Okay, we know the owners’ and Bettman’s motive. But what’s in it for the players? They don’t get paid in the playoffs anyway and they forfeited their last paycheck when the season stopped. What do they have to gain, if anything? There are actually two driving forces for the players. One is the veterans who know that they have fewer chances of competing for the Stanley Cup. Ask Shea Weber and Carey Price if they want a chance at the Cup. The second (and more important reason) is that league revenues affect the NHLPA‘s escrow. Yes, it’s revenues for the players. It also affects the salary cap, which in turns also affects the players’ future salaries. So even for the players, the motivation is greed.
You see, they’re trying to salvage their sponsors, their TV and radio broadcasting contracts, with the US TV rights coming to an end soon. To borrow a Las Vegas poker expression, the NHL is going all-in, hoping that luck will be on their side, and finally capitalizing on gaining a few more fans. Perhaps they should talk to a few Casino owners. They will tell them that when you gamble on luck, it is never on your side… for the long term. Yes, you can win a battle but the Casino will always win the war. Short term gain and gambling their bread makers’ health (the players) will not end well. God forbid but imagine if a player (or more) contracts COVID-19. What happens to the playoffs? Worse, what if one loses his life because of it? What does the NHL have to gain compared to what they have to lose, by rushing back? They seem to think that it’s worth the risk. Many, like myself, put health and life ahead of money.