Friday, 9 November 2007

Friday's Frank Frothings

by Jes

Forbes, the magazine that figures wealth is the be-all and end-all of our lives, has done its usual due diligence on the NHL and its finances.

Basically, it's good to be an NHL owner, especially in Canada. Yep, our dollar continues to rise like fast-bake yeast, and the salary structure of the NHL has ensured that franchise values will grow like weeds in your uncle's garden.

It's also advantageous (duh) to own thy own arena, as teams can shuffle lots of revenue to/from the building, and make a killing on the overpriced, heavily-marked up, watered-down, bad-for-you beer. Not only that, but the arena can be used to host other events (concerts, basketbrawl, etc)

In the two seasons since team owners canceled the 2004-05 campaign to force a salary cap on the players, the 30 NHL franchises have increased an average of 23 percent in value, and the league has gone from an operating loss of $96 million to a profit of $96 million.

The average hockey team is now worth $200 million and last season posted a profit (in the sense of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) of $3.2 million on revenue of $81 million. Even small-market hockey teams are hot properties: Tampa Bay Lightning owner William Davidson, who bought the team, the operating lease to the arena, and 5.6 acres of surrounding real estate for $115 million in 1999, is on the verge of selling that package for $206 million.

No, television ratings have not improved. Last season's Stanley Cup finals between the Anaheim Ducks and the Ottawa Senators were the lowest in history, and NBC pulled in a horrid 1.1 regular-season rating. And to win back the love from fans and sponsors spurned by the lockout, team owners have kept ticket and advertising prices essentially where they were three years ago.

The surge in team values and profits is due to the salary cap that was included in the new collective bargaining agreement (which has lowered player costs from 66 percent of revenue to 54 percent since the 2003-04 season, according to our data) and a stronger Canadian dollar (the six hockey teams north of the border pay players in U.S. dollars).
Of course, we know Buttman will come out and say Forbes is full of it, and that NHL franchises aren't at rich as everyone thinks they are (While at the same time, claiming the game is better than ever before. Go figure)

Wayne's World: Our Southern correspondent is back with his thoughts on the Saku Koivu issue. I agree with him for the most part, but Stan Fischler a great writer? *cough*

Some final thoughts on the story I sent you last week about Saku Koivu, who was receiving no love from the Montreal fans because he didn't speak a dying language (uh, uh, (snap, snap), it's on the tip of my tongue, I know it...), French!

Thinking about this last week, the closest comparison I could think of is NASCAR's Jeff Gordon. The guy has been stock-car's best driver for the past decade, but the rednecks hold it against him because he was born in California for god's sakes...

But the Francophone/separatist thing in Quebec has been going on for decades (remember the Maurice Richard riots in the 50's or Rene Levesque who made it to the U.S. edition of TIME back in '78?)...This past summer, I re-read a book by the great New York hockey writer Stan Fischler called Slashing!, originally printed in 1975. Early in the book, he reports how David Molson (heir to the Canadian brewing empire) was forced to sell his team and have a rifle around the house because a group of radical French-speaking Quebec separatists put on him on a death-list for "exploiting French-speaking athletes"...
It is not as if Koivu doesn't know French (he did player intros the next game en francais), but he obviously doesn't feel comfortable enough in his French to do interviews in that language.

European players already have enough nervousness about doing interviews in English, given the complexity of the language and the media's ability/desire to twist quotes to put a player in a bad light. Can you imagine how apeshit the French media would go if one of Saku's French interviews had a slight hint of something juicy to it, intentional or not? Given that well over 90% of the hockey media and fanbase is English, why should Saku have to pander to some whiny minority?

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