Lockout Thoughts: The End is Nigh 2: Thus Spoke Crosby

I don’t know if there will ever be a satisfactory CBA arrangement for the NHL under its current 30 team structure. 30 teams is just too many, and the burden of that sits on the League itself.

When it comes to the percentage of seats filled at home games, there’s no arguing the point that the expansion and relocation markets from the 90s and 00s are the worst at actually filling seats. I’ve used this source before, but here’s the bottom 10 in terms of percentage of seats filled this last season in the NHL.

Only two of the teams on this list weren’t relocated or constituted as new expansion teams within the last 20 years: the Devils and the Islanders. The Islanders are eternally plagued by a bad team, horrible arena, and incompetent ownership. The Devils are unfortunately located in Newark, New Jersey. The only recent expansion teams that didn’t make this list: Ottawa Senators, San Jose Sharks, Minnesota Wild, and Winnipeg Jets. Except for San Jose all three other teams are in traditional hockey markets, Minnesota isn’t called “The State of Hockey” without reason.

Thus, it’s the small market teams who have the most to lose, they can’t give away their tickets, and as such they don’t have any money to pay for players. We are not advocating that the Cap should be removed, but when you look at it, there is no way that simply cutting player salary expenditures are going to help the league fix attendance problems in the American South.

I don’t understand how the Owners can be so united in their efforts: it is only because of the prosperity of the large market teams that the small market teams need to spend so much in order to be cap compliant. In a very literal sense it is the 8 NHL teams that somehow managed to average over 100% attendance over the entire season who have driven up the revenues from which the salary cap is based.

Now we’ll move onto Sid’s speech and comments: basically, everything written above is what he meant to say in his speech. Although at one point he started talking about how hard he had been training this offseason to get ready for a season that is probably not going to start when it ought to. As a Pens fan that might be the hardest bit to swallow. You just get the sense that Crosby just has a quiet determination to dominate the league this year. It’ll suck if that league ends up being the KHL.

As with Fehr’s speech I didn’t see it live but it really seems like the Players are trying to sow the seeds of discontent between the Big Money Owners and the less fortunate. To be sure, this tactic just comes off as tired.

To reiterate the historical context yet again, when Fehr organized the MLBPA strike, the MLB owners were a divided group, on one hand there were teams like the Yankees that wanted to win at any cost, on the other hand there were small market teams like the Brewers who couldn’t afford big stars and just wanted to stop losing money every season. Fehr came along at the perfect time and drove a huge stake between them he got the small market teams to concede to no limits on contracts, and he convinced the big market teams to give the small market teams money so they would stop losing it. It worked beautifully back then, but no matter what he’s tried, the same tactic hasn’t worked with the NHL owners.

Hey, d’you see what I did there, it says “NO”?!?!

That was the key to Bettman’s conference which occurred a couple hours after the Players. The Owners had been in meetings while the PA made their appeal. During the Owners meetings, all 30 Owners voted unanimously to allow Bettman to lock out the league on Saturday. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. Yes, James Dolan, owner of the Rangers said that he would be interested in hearing more from the PA, and yes Mario and Burkle don’t seem the sort to demand such things from the players, but again, the Owners are just as unified in this as the Players.

So what it all means is that we’re headed for a lockout. I really believe that this can be a contained lockout though. If each side can make one meaningful concession to the other I see no reason why the season can’t start on time. In a worst case scenario they should have the ability to be playing by Thanksgiving. Right now the big question is if either side will make that one meaningful concession.

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