Dose of Reality #49

May 24, 2007

OK, we have Anaheim vs. Ottawa. I’m going with the Ducks for a few reasons; they are tougher, hungrier, and have more ex-Blue Jackets than the Senators. More about the Cup later.

NBC dropped the Buffalo-Ottawa game last Saturday to go with its scheduled programming, the Preakness Race. They can’t sell commercials in NHL overtimes, the ratings are low, and they had more viewers and sponsor money lined up for the horse race. It sounds like a no-brainer. So hockey fans, other than demand that NBC do a better job of communicating this next time a similar situation comes up, what should be done? Yeah, I know, that game should have been shown in the evening where it belongs. Yeah, I know, the NHL should have demanded that the game be moved to MSNBC or CNBC instead of the smaller Versus channel. But as someone told me long ago, don’t confuse hockey issues with business issues. NBC doesn’t. And this story is related to the next story:

Jim Balsillie, founder and CEO of RIM (Blackberry), bought the Nashville Predators. You can read more about it here and here. But I think you can agree with what is being said by a lot of hockey writers, that the team will soon be leaving Nashville. This might be the start of the game returning to Canada, reversing the migration to warm weather U.S. cities. Is Florida next? What about Atlanta, Tampa Bay, the Kings, Phoenix, or even the CBJ? I’m a positive person and always look for the silver lining and at this time I am positive that the NHL is hurting. When the jewel of your sport, the Stanley Cup, is moved off the air to a channel that features an Icelandic strong man contest, you’ve got problems. When a very successful Nashville team can’t get people to attend its games, you’ve got problems. When the vast majority of U.S. media doesn’t even report on you, you’ve got problems.

The Canadian people have had Hockey Night In Canada for a long time, but now they are forced to watch games played in the hot afternoons of May. They’ve had enough and there is going to be a lot less concern about the “American problem” and more assertiveness about making the game more Canadian again. Nashville, you had your chance but couldn’t make it work, so we’re going to take the team back. The U.S. dollar is not that strong anymore and market corrections will take care of the American problem. In a salary cap league, a huge percentage of costs are now fixed, so you better maximize your sources of revenue. If you can get more butts in the seats in Cambridge or Winnipeg or wherever, and you can get more television revenue from Canadian organizations, the future is not hard to see. It certainly doesn’t help when you schedule prime time games on warm, spring afternoons.

So when your local NHL franchise decides to renew the contracts of the assistant coaches who were part of the dismal past, you better take note and maybe let the local owners and management know that you value winning and competitiveness more than offering a nice place to work.  Wake up, CBJ owners!  You keep taking us for granted and you will be part of the American problem.

-Truth Serum


The dean of hockey writers, Eric Duhatschek, offers his view on the Nashville sale.

One, Nashville isn’t Pittsburgh – and while the NHL nominally wants to operate successfully in every one of its markets, it would have a far easier time seeing a team bolt from a small southern city that has been in the league fewer than 10 years than a franchise with 40 years under its belt and a couple of Stanley Cup championships to its credit.

To read the rest of this, go here.

One comment

  1. The beauty of these posts is that we can agree to disagree. As you may recall I have backed Bettman very enthusiastically but on the tv deal we saw the ugly side last weekend when the overtime between Ottawa and Buffalo was taken off the air for the Preakness. That was the deal Bettman made and had to live with. Only Buffalo fans got the luxury of seeing their team lose in overtime.
    Regarding the state of hockey in the States and Jim Balsillie buying the Nashville team: I think its a good thing because he wants to take the team eventually to an area in southwestern Ontario, about 60 miles from the Toronto area and 80 miles from the Buffalo area. This region has three distinct cities, Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge that comprise about 1 million people but more importantly there are many companies that would pony up sponsorship dough without hesitation. There is a very successful junior team in the area called the Kitchener Rangers that draw an average of 6,000 fans per game and the corporate sponsorship is huge. This team makes lots of money, in the neighborhood of 3.5 million per season in a facility that holds just over 6,100 seats. This area is home is the hugely successful Research in Motion (R.I.M.) and many manufacturing plants. In addition there are many auto parts manufacturers that supply facilities throughout the U.S. and Canada.
    Just an hour down the road is London,Ontario where there junior team draws over 9,000 per game and makes more money than the Kitchener team. There are about 1.5 million residents in this area so drawing fans is not a problem.
    But the biggest plus is the fact that a new team in this area would not impede the Toronto or Buffalo teams in the NHL. Plus add the fact that Balsillie is a billionaire, you can see the team would enjoy a long and stable home. Most of us are glad he did not get Pittsburgh since that team has been in the NHL so long and the fans really support the team. The Penguins just needed a new modern rink to operate from.
    Regarding who will win the Cup? It has to be Ottawa for the simple reason they have played the least amount of games and have looked much better than the Ducks. Yes the Ducks are a huge team and have a great defence corps but Ottawa has dominated every team it has played in this years playoffs. There is no better scoring line than the Alfresson, Heatly, Spezza combo. Goaltending is slanted towards the Ducks and coaching, I would give to Ottawa. Let’s see how things pan out.

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