Editor’s Note: This article is a collaborative effort between Dubsism’s own J-Dub and Ryan Meehan from First Order Historians. Ryan also has his own blog, East End Philadelphia, which is featured in our BlogRoll and it is well worth the read.
As you may have noticed, the National Hockey League is currently not available for our viewing pleasure. This is largely because NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has a fundamental misunderstanding of what the business of sports is all about. After reading this piece, you will have more of an understanding of this business than Bettman does. Then again, you could pop a pimple and understand more than Bettman does.
Whether or not you like the NHL isn’t as important as the fact the current lockout the league is going through has some profound impacts, and not all of them are exclusively related to hockey. Follow us through the following six points, and you will see why what is happening in the NHL is bad for sports in general and those who depend on it either directly or indirectly.
Then, you can apply to be the next NHL Commissioner. After all, nobody can fuck it up any worse.
1) The NHL (When in Business) Helps Other Sports Entities
This gets a bit convoluted, but if you follow along, this will make sense. Stay with us on this; believe it or not, this can be explained.
A large portion of Canadians are hockey fans, and a large portion number of NHL fans happen to be Canadians. That need no be as confusing as it sounds, if you bear in mind that hockey is the de facto national sport of our neighbors to the north. The NHL is popular all across Canada; the same cannot be said of the U.S. We can pretty much guarantee you that if you live in the Mountain Time Zone and happen to be a huge hockey fan, there is an astronomically high probability you don’t have any friends. Not to get all 9th-grade algebra class on you, but the ratio of Canadians to hockey fans to complete drunks is best expressed in a Venn diagram.
So, why the hell does that matter? Right now, it is an incredibly safe bet a great number of Canadians couldn’t care less about any American sports media outlets, such as ESPN or the NBC Sports Network because the NHL is nowhere to be seen. What that means is every other sport is losing exposure to a market of close to 30 million people. While that might not sweat the NFL very much, that hurts smaller leagues who need all the exposure they can get, especially those like the NBA and Major League Soccer which both have franchises in Canada. Outside of those Canadian markets which have franchises, exposure across Canada gets more limited than Mel Gibson’s future career options.
In other words, picture what would happen to the exposure to European soccer in the U.S. if the English Premier League suffered a work stoppage. Most Americans would have nothing to ignore for two hours on ESPN before College GameDay on Saturday mornings.
There’s another reason the NHL matters in Canada to other sports leagues. The NHL keeps Canadians watching American sports leagues which have fucked Canada so often we are amazed we don’t owe the Great White North some serious back-owed child support. American sports leagues have all got vested interests in Canada, and more than one has had a colossal failure north of the border. From a business perspective, the Montreal Expos were a complete disaster and the Vancouver Grizzlies only lasted five years. So, without the NHL, what’s left? A Toronto baseball team which hasn’t won anything in twenty years, a Toronto basketball team which will never win anything, and one shitty Buffalo Bills’ game in Toronto every year. No wonder the Canadians are pissed off at us.
But wait; it gets better. When you take this back full-circle to the NHL, one really has to point out that the NHL is now, and has always been an American league. While every alcoholic hockey fan in Canada is now firing a Molson bottle through their monitor, stop to consider that once the NHL stabilized in the 1940′s (there was a nearly thirty-year period in which the number of franchises and their locations fluctuated almost yearly), out of the “original” six franchises, four were in the U.S. When the league’s first expansion occurred in 1967, all six new franchises were in the U.S.
In the “expansion” era, the first franchise to be added in Canada was the Vancouver Canucks in 1971. As it stands today, the league consists of 30 teams, and only 7 of them are in Canada; and it has been almost 20 years since a Canadian team hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup.
To make a long story short, Canadians can’t be happy with how Americans are fucking up their game, a sentiment which carries over to other sports, which is why the Winnipeg Blue Bombers will always have a larger following than whichever shitty NFL franchise eventually ends up in Toronto.
2) The NHL Was Doing Quite Well Before This Idiotic Lockout
Speaking of Winnipeg, the “City of Opportunity” is the “canary in the coal mine” for the health of the NHL In other words, when the NHL does well in Winnipeg, the NHL does well in general. Conversely, a league that can’t succeed in the heart of Canada playing the de facto national sport doesn’t deserve to survive.
For lack of a better comparison, Winnipeg should be to the NHL as Green Bay is to the NFL. Green Bay has no business having a NFL franchise because it is a little town which comes nowhere near the market requirements to support a franchise; the entire population of Green Bay would fit inside Michigan Stadium. However, the NFL uses a model that allows team to remain in places where they are popular where the market may not support a franchise. Without the NFL’s current model, there would be no Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, Jacksonville Jaguars, New Orleans Saints, Buffalo Bills, St. Louis Rams, and others.
The NHL needs to figure out how make something similar work, and now is the time. At the conclusion of the 2011-2012 NHL season, the National Hockey League was getting about as much play in the American sports market as it’s ever going to get. Television ratings were through the roof, and with the Los Angeles Kings winning the Stanley Cup, all of a sudden we were starting to see celebrities at hockey games in the bigger markets. Even with the talk of the impending cancellation of this season, the casual sports fan was paying attention to the NHL. In a way, even the non-believers were still believing hockey would come back as opposed to ten years ago when they didn’t even care because they were all pre-occupied passing out in the hallways of their college dormitory after a full night of date-raping each other.
This means instead of having a pseudo-suicidal lockout, Commissioner Gary Bettman and the NHL owners should have been figuring out how to make franchises viable in places not only like Winnipeg , but other places in “hockey territory. ” Refer back to Point #1 for a minute. Nobody in the leadership ranks of the NHL wants to admit this, but hockey is a territorial sport, and it has limited appeal outside of that territory. That fact alone makes it all the more crucial WITHIN that territory, and that’s the big deal here.
What exactly is “hockey territory?’ Essentially, it anywhere that has a) real winters, b) a reasonable market for professional sports, c) anyplace where hockey is the “national sport,” and/or c) a city with a large population transplanted from “a” or “c.” In other words, this means Canada, the northeastern third of the U.S., and about four cities outside of that.
The key to all this is that once somebody figures out how to make the NHL viable in some of the smaller markets in “hockey territory,” many of the problems this league has will disappear overnight. Naturally, given how the leadership of the NHL has handled itself up to this point, if the individual who pulls that off comes from that group, then you are invited to come over for a sizzling, freshly-killed unicorn steak from the J-Dub/Meehan unicorn ranch, because let’s be honest…we are starting to get really fucking hungry over here, and we all tired of Thanksgiving leftovers by this point.
By focusing on the areas where hockey has popularity, the league can move franchises to cities where they would actually generate interest. If they have too many franchises, they can always contract a few. This is the part where we would apologize to all the Columbus Blue Jackets season ticket holders, but there’s only like 16 of them, and they are far more pissed that the NHL just butt-fucked them out of an All-Star game they had worked hours to get.
The bottom line is that the NHL is better off by dominating in smaller markets if need be than operating in an era of indifference in larger ones. There will always be the franchises that make more money than others; that happens in any league regardless of what any baseball purist may tell you. By putting the product in markets where it will generate interest, the NHL can begin to demand better money for national broadcasting rights. It won’t happen is because the NHL is run by a bunch of dumb-fucks who believe they can market a winter sport in places like Miami and Phoenix; this is the same bunch of mental midgets who don’ t understand by having this lockout, they are losing the golden opportunity to do this. Gary Bettman deservedly gets the blame for a lot of this as his sorry ass is the name at the top of the stationery.
3) The NHL Offers An Economic Impact At The Local Level
Whether you’re a hockey fan or not, it’s hard to argue with the fact that the NHL creates thousands of employment opportunities year after year. Directly, there’s the hundreds of jobs created by an NHL team, from the front office and marketing people all the way down to the guy who washes the jockstraps. Indirectly, there’s the arena parking attendants, the beer and peanut vendors, and several others whose jobs really rely on the presence of the NHL.
Let’s take a look at the impact the lockout has on various people connected to the NHL:
An NHL Owner:
Although it may seem difficult to believe, these shitheads have their servants buy their groceries at the same stores that we do. Sure, they make more money than any of us will likely see in a lifetime, and in America today we love to demonize rich people for no other fucking reason then they happen to be rich. But J-Dub made a great point about this in our piece on the recent election; the guy who signs your check is not on food stamps.
This is exactly why there is as much importance in being a rich guy at the top of the food chain as there is in being a poor guy at the bottom. Go take a look at what places look like where there are no rich people; they are absolute shit-ponds like Somalia, the Phillipines, and a Wal-Mart after 9 p.m. Rich people are the ones who foot the bill for business by putting their livelihoods on the line, so they should be rewarded accordingly. As far as the NHL goes, without the owners, there is no league.
Having said that, when there is no revenue coming in you can only imagine how much money they are losing. Let’s take a brief moment and explain that, because it is too easy to simply dismiss the problem here with the “ahhh, but they are a bunch millionaires” sort of class envy.
The class of wealth in which you find the type of guy who owns an NHL franchise never really needs to take stock of how much cash they have on hand because unlike you and us, they are investors and businessmen first, and consumers second. They always have a plan for next year, so if there is no next year (which essentially where this lockout is headed), they know they need to have either a lot of money to whether the storm, or to have other revenue-generating investments. If they don’t, you can bet their net worth is going to drop like Ol’ Dirty Bastard at his final recording session.
Naturally, that begs the question why would these guys deliberately stage this work stoppage. Because nobody ever said rich and smart went hand-in-hand. We can’t forget that it is the owners who got the league into this mess by spending huge amounts of money without having appreciable national television contracts in the U.S.
In other words, hating these guys just because they are rich misses the point. Hate them because they are stupider than Forrest Gump sticking his dick in a pencil-sharpener.
An NHL General Manager:
As a guy entrusted to run an NHL team, you face a day-to-day battle to make sure everything is in place. The owners know there are precious few decent and/or honest people with talent in whom one can trust to safeguard an enormous financial investment, which is when they find one, they are handsomely rewarded. Naturally, many who do not meet these criteria are also handsomely rewarded, which takes us right back to the stupidity of the owners.
In other words, being an NHL general manager means working for a guy who keeps sticking his dick into pencil sharpeners, and when you tell him to pull his dick out of the pencil sharpener, rather than following your advice, he starts an argument with you about how many times to crank the handle
An NHL Coach:
Before New York Rangers’ head coach John Tortarella’s outburst about the Pittsburgh Penguins getting special treatment from the league due to their superstar-laden line-up, it never really occurred to us how hard it is to be an NHL coach.
Think about it for a minute. You have to manage a bunch of grown men, who are primarily either Canadian, or Northern/Eastern European; two groups of people who even if they weren’t pucksters are prone to drink to the point of brain damage EVERY night. The minute you try to address that issue, even after the state troopers just peeled one of them of a roadside tree, all they do is get on Twitter and bitch to the media about what a self-righteous asshole you are.
The best part is these Budweiser-sponges on skates get away with this shit because the casual sports fan probably couldn’t name five current NHL coaches, and they think Barry Melrose and Don Cherry are the be-all, end-all of NHL knowledge. How’s that for fucked up?
But wait, there’s more. Not only do they have to deal with all that, but they get to do it under the constant, yet inconsistent leadership eye of Assholius Supremus Gary Bettman. Given that, why would anybody want to be an NHL coach? Because it’s just slightly better than making a living breaking into cars.
Remember when Ray Lewis said that if last year’s NFL lockout lasted into the regular season, there would be a rise in crime because people would start stabbing each other if they didn’t have football to watch? To that end, it’s probably not a very good thing to have a bunch of unemployed hockey coaches running around.
Stop and think about it for a minute…what would happen if all these people in dangerous and/or shitty professions suddenly were no longer able to channel their energy in some constructive form? Before you start listening to those right-wing nutcases bitch about (insert rapper they don’t like here) making a living in a manner they don’t like.
Well, when you think about it, hockey coaches top that list, even if you don’t realize it. Hockey is the only sport where you can see a players committing full-on felony aggravated assault while their coach is right behind them screaming “KICK HIS FUCKING ASS!” There’s a certain breed of lunatic who becomes a hockey coach, and we’d be willing to bet none of them are the type of guy who takes up knitting when they have nothing to do. Get the point?
An NHL Bench Player:
Bench players in basketball, baseball,l and hockey have pretty sweet jobs, so it’s difficult to feel too sorry for them, but this shit going on in the NHL affects them as well. Bench players across the sporting world get to see the whole country and every once in a while some third-world crapper your league think give a shit about your sport. Basically, your job is to stay somewhat ready for the day (which may never come) that due to injury and/or suckitude your number gets called.
This goes right back to the “Now what will they do?” question we posed in the previous segment. Do you know what most hockey coaches were before they became coaches? Bench players. This means the training ground for coaches is a world where guys drink their weight in beer, pass out every night, and occasionally piss themselves or on others.
In other words, today’s unemployed puckster center could end up being tomorrow’s coach; two groups of people which could easily spawn tomorrow’s most colorful serial killer.
You just can’t be too careful about these things.
An Arena Beer Vendor:
As two guys who drink quite a bit, we are the first to admit that most sporting events require the need to wet one’s whistle, and the men and women who allow that to happen are the most important people in the whole fucking building. If we take the time to pour some cheap-shit bourbon into empty hot sauce bottles, then it is only fair to buy a shitload of those nine-dollar beers as a chaser.
The arena beer guy doesn’t necessarily make a lot of money, but since it is usually base wage + commission job, as long as booze hounds like provide the volume, he’s at least got a shot to not end up faking car accident injuries for a living.
Just in terms of margin, if you pack an arena with J-Dub level drinkers (many people don’t know he is the one who taught Kitty Dukakis to love hand sanitizer on the rocks) and pump them full of suds at nine bucks a shot from a keg that dropped off of the truck onto the interstate and reloaded onto that same truck and sold to the arena for twenty bucks, the cash is just waiting to rain from the sky in “build a fucking cash Ark” proportions.
Dramatic re-enactment of Kitty Dukakis on a Saturday night (before she got shipped off to Trembling Hills Dry-Out Farm)
Double down on that with that tubularized mélange of beaks and rectums known as the hot dog, which costs four cents to make and once in an arena sells at T-bone prices, and that at some point even “last name ends in ‘-han’ level drinkers (Lohan, Meehan…you get the point…)” need to eat something they can vomit on to their shirt later, and it becomes obvious what a river of cash arena concessions can generate.
Then there’s the mortar which sticks those drunken bricks together…laziness. Who the fuck is surprised that the very same Americans who invented the drive-thru would be the same ones to bring you food and drink which is walked up to your very chair?
Let’s face, it is the American need to be constantly drunk and fatted up is the foundation upon which the job security of these concessionaires is built. If those people lose faith in the system, we might actually have to wait until there is a stoppage in play, get out of our seats, and (hold on, folks we’re about to experience some turbulence) actually go up to the concession stand and purchase that which will be lodging in our arteries ourselves.
Since the league is locked out now, these vendors may simply think that being a vendor is just not stable enough income to rely on every year (due to circumstances they will likely never understand) and when the league finally can put a product back on the ice after this situation is resolved in the summer of 2046, we won’t even have anybody to bring us our poison…sweet, delicious, poison.
Who the fuck are we kidding? We both will have been dead for decades by the time that finally goes down.
The Guy Who Washes The Jockstraps:
Here’s another example that exemplifies that all the links in the chain are important, whether or not they are at the top or bottom. Without the guy who washes the jockstraps, we would also have nobody to label them. This means we would have a league full of unsanitary undergarments being passed around the locker room like a roll of athletic tape.
In a world where the percentage of the general public who doesn’t have sexually transmitted diseases finds itself dangerously close to the percentage of the general public who is unemployed, making sure the right guy gets the right crotch-pouch is not only part of the job – it’s a safety measure. You don’t have to live inside of Colin Farrell’s medicine cabinet to know that the Center for Disease Control is one of the biggest failures in American history, right along with the war on drugs and Kitty Dukakis’ Vitalis-soaked liver (damn you, J-Dub).
Not only are these guys vital to the community health, but if we don’t keep these guys employed, there is no doubt that within about 72 hours North America would be knee-deep in Kardashian-quality genital infections.
4) Basketball Doesn’t Pop Out Of The Box With Excitement
Seriously, the NBA season just started, and nobody gives a fuck. Tune in SportsCemter tomorrow, and all the NBA talk you are going to get is going to be some tired old wheeze about “What’s wrong with the Lakers?” – that is when they aren’t full-on fellating LeBron James.
Other than the sports themselves, this is where hockey and basketball differ greatly. They are both winter sports. They are often times played in the same arena. But the NHL knows how to be exciting early in the season; it DOES pop out of the box. In comparison, the early-season NBA just sort of lies there like an overly-roofied sorority girl.
Unlike the NBA, very few NHL players take games off which is impressive when you consider a) the brutal nature of the game and b) the liver-numbing amount of drinking which the hockey culture floats on. Couple that with the fact it all happens on ice skates, and it gets even more impressive. There was no better ankle-breaking device invented than the ice skate, and mastering them is an accomplishment unto itself, let alone playing a fast-paced and violent game while on them. If you would have put ice skates on Sean Kemp, he wouldn’t have been able to find his dick, let alone create a bazillion illegitimate kids (have fun trying to jackhammer that visual out of your head).
On top of all that, NBA players have almost no pressure from a developed minor league system. Every player in the NHL knows that the minute he stops producing, there are a ass load of guys toiling in shit holes like Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan and Moline, Illinois who would kill for the chance to play in bigger shit holes like Ottawa or Columbus, Ohio.
Now, we will admit there is the NBA’s D-League, which while having franchises in exciting metropolises like Fort Wayne, Indiana and Erie, Pennsylvania, it simply does not produce enough quality players to make NBA players feel like their jobs might be in jeopardy once they start to suck. Guys in the NBA couldn’t name one D-League player unless they are related to him, which we might also be able to pin on Shawn Kemp.
This is why even good NBA teams have roster full of shit heaps like Dexter Pittman, Boris Diaw, and Jodie Meeks on their rosters. If you want to doubt that, ask yourself this question: If the NBA had a solid system of feeder leagues, then why would wastes like Antawn Jamison and the fuckwipe formerly known as Ron Artest still be Los Angeles Lakers? Not to mention, just who the fuck is Jodie Meeks anyway?
5) Gary Bettman and the NHL Owners Have No Business Savvy
Mentioning the name Mitt Romney invariably brings up the election we just got past. Regardless of what you think about what just happened, the point here is that back in 2005, Romney and his multi-billion dollar empire made a bid to buy the entire league. From Deadspin:
It was March 2005, and the NHL’s owners didn’t know what to do. It had been six months since they’d locked out the players’ union, trying to force concessions, but the players were still refusing to bear the brunt of spending cuts. Two weeks earlier, the league had finally canceled the already-delayed season. No money was coming in, and none would be. For the first time since the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1919, no Stanley Cup would be awarded.
Now commissioner Gary Bettman told the owners that their meeting would have a visitor, from outside, who had something to say to them. The visitor came in with a number and a proposal: For $3.5 billion, he said, he was willing to purchase every single team in the league. His company, Bain Capital, wanted to buy the entire NHL.
Since its founding in 1984, Bain Capital had been swooping down on struggling businesses, buying them out with cheap debt, and using austere management to make them profitable—for the private equity firm and for Mitt Romney, the former partner whose 10-year retirement agreement would continue to pay out profits through 2009. What the businesses were hardly mattered. Bain’s holdings have included AMC Theaters, The Weather Channel, Toys “R” Us, Burlington Coat Factory, and Burger King, companies with nothing in common beyond the potential profits Bain saw in running them its own way.
And now, Bain saw a chance to buy low on professional hockey. The Toronto Star reported that on March 1, 2005, Bain Capital managing partner (and Boston Celtics co-owner) Steve Pagliuca, accompanied by Bob Caporale of Game Plan LLC (which specializes in facilitating sales of sports franchises), made a presentation at an owners meeting in New York. They had been invited specifically by Bettman. Bill Daly, the NHL’s chief legal officer, said afterward that “when someone’s offering over $3 billion, we felt we had an obligation to the board to have them, at least, hear it from the proposed purchaser.”
So, why didn’t this happen?
The Deadspin article will lead you to believe that the $3.5 billion offer Bain made was too far below the $4.9 billion Bettman and the owners thought the league was worth. While that may be true, what’s also true is that Bettman and the owner don’t understand their business model is fatally flawed. For starters, the NHL is spending big cash on salaries while not having a commensurate television revenue. Sure, they have a $2 billion deal with NBC, but that is small change compared to what the NFL is getting. What is comes down to is that Bettman and the NHL have an over-inflated view of the value of the NHL, and Bettman has a delusional view of the future of the league.
“Over-inflated” might be a bit of an understatement when you consider that the difference between $3.5 and $4.9 billion dollars makes it unfathomable to think that such a difference in estimates was made in error. But this is Gary Bettman, who can fuck things up worse than your mother suddenly appearing in your Sofia Vergara-based wet dream. That alone makes it not all that hard to believe he was off almost a billion and a half dollars. This genius couldn’t count his balls and get the same number twice.
You would think that there would be a baseline of mental competency to be the commissioner of a major sports league, but Bettman is only one of the four faces we would carve into Mount Commissioner Dipshit.
6) A rejuvenated NHL would piss off Alan Parkins, and nothing would make us happier than that
One of the great things about blogs is that they give anybody an outlet for what ever they want. Alan Parkins represents everything that can be terrible about that. About three years ago, we started to notice a lot of comments on our blogs from a man in Florida by the name of Alan Parkins, also known as “Tophatal.” At first, while his comments were difficult to understand, we appreciated him stopping by our sites site to discuss various topics in sports.
We knew a long time ago he had no love for hockey, but we have never been ones to discourage differing opinions; Hell, that’s the whole reason why we have a Comments section. However, it is one thing to have an opposing viewpoint, but it’s quite another to be a complete blog-dick. At first, his comments were easily dismissed as the ramblings of a lunatic. But then he took it upon himself to hijack the Comments sections of blogs he frequents, including ours. After a while, we grew tired of his constantly changing the subject and posting pictures of scantily clad women on our websites. We really grew thin of his bullshit when he questioned our sexuality when we told him to stop.
He would post some of the most insane responses to our articles and when he was wrapping up his free thought children that would have been better off aborted, he would bait us into responding by asking us questions that were about something completely different and were severely off topic. What was confusing about this is the guy would post pictures that could get us fired from work if the wrong person happened to be walking by while we were checking our comments for approval, but then he would censor his language with the context of the comment. If a guy is going to attach random pictures of what’s essentially softcore pornogrpahy to an article about football, we’re all going to laugh at him hysterically when he prints things like “What in the G****mn world is going on here?”
So, what the hell does this have to do with hockey? About a year ago, Parkins started arguing with Cal from First Order Historians on one of their hockey related threads. Based on nothing but his own opinion, Parkins started spewing a bunch of his usual bullshit about how hockey was pretty much dead and would never be a part of the sports culture again.
Again, it’s one thing to have your opinion, but Parkins showed what complete asswipe he is when his opinion was destroyed by inarguable facts, he simply played the “Well if I don’t watch it, it’s not important” card.
That’s why we hope the NHL comes back bigger and better than ever. Every time there’s an NHL story out here, we hope it is like a red-hot puck being slapped straight up Parkins’ ass. Every single goddamn time.
What Parkins’ too fucking stupid to realize is that we all know he is just a troll. Know how we know that, dipshit? If you are so dis-interested by hockey, then why did you spend so fucking much arguing about it? If hockey sucks like you say it does, then why do you care? Are you that bored? I suppose, you can only surf for so much porn…
One more thing, Al…and this is coming straight from J-Dub…I know exactly what kind of cowardly fuckface you really are. I know you will try to play the race card and say we are beating on you because you are black. From one black man to another, don’t you dare try that shit. If you do, I will make sure everybody can see the kind of ridiculous, hate-filled crap you’ve spewed. Also Al, if you want to try to call this some sort of cyber-bullying, most of the people’s blogs whom you’ve infected with your crap are too nice to say anything to you, but we’ve grown tired of you. There’s been a lot of people who have been more than patient with your pointless rhetoric for long enough, and we were trying to politely give you a hint that we no longer wanted you around. Since that didn’t work, we are left with no other choice than to spell it out for you. You represent everything that give bloggers a bad name, and you would do us all a tremendous favor if you took your own life in the most gruesome manner possible.
That’s what this all really comes down to…Hockey is a blast to watch, and it will be even better to watch knowing it will completely piss off Alan Parkins. We are more than happy to defend one of the “big four” sports in America; it’s one of the “big four” for a reason.
Stay tuned to Dubsism, First Order Historians, and East End Philadelphia for more up to the minute advice on how to be undeniably awesome.
-J-Dub and Meehan