PONTIFICATING FROM THE SUNSHINE STATE – NOVEMBER 26
By Leo Haggerty
AT THE CROSSROADS
I hate to ruin everyone’s Thanksgiving but it’s time to face reality when it comes to professional sports. The professional league that is in danger of having to fold the tent permanently, or at least until after a vaccine has been developed to ward off Covid-19, is the National Hockey League. To say it’s “put up or shut up” time for pro hockey is an understatement.
The reason I say that is the television contract issue. Of the four major professional leagues in North America, the NHL has by far the worst agreement when it comes to generating revenue from TV. The other three have the ability to not necessarily make money but at least to survive. Pro hockey is in vital need of the financial impact that fan attendance provides.
The league and the owners make a preponderance of their operating expenses and profits from fannies in the seats. If you don’t believe me, then listen to Las Vegas owner Bill Foley. The Golden Knights boss stated, and I quote, “Who knows if we are going to be playing. If we aren’t playing in front of fans, a lot of teams can’t make it. That’s including us, to make a serious financial commitment to fund the team without playing in front of fans.”
Here’s another situation that needs to be addressed. The “bubble” concept worked perfectly for the NHL but only in the sense that it allowed the league to complete a truncated regular season and an exciting postseason by crowning a Stanley Cup champion. That’s great for public relations but, as a lot of teams found out that went deep into the playoffs, it didn’t pay the bills and was a financial Armageddon.
From a dollars and cents standpoint, the “bubble” was a complete failure. The only reason the league’s franchises were able to survive was because they had revenue from right around three-quarters of their regular season contests. Without those funds, some teams would have folded already.
A “bubble” regular season would be the death knell for the league. Some franchises would have to stop operations within the first couple of months simply because they could not meet payroll.
With all that being said, was does the NHL do? In my humble opinion, you delay the opening of the season until it’s safe for fans to attend any contest with no limit on the number of people that could purchase a ticket.
If that means waiting until April to start the season, so be it. Personally, I would rather see a complete NHL season that has to go through the summer again than one that ends up losing four or more franchises. What do you think?