Friday, March 04, 2005

McHockey a possibility?

All for one and one for all? Every spoke in the wheel the same size! A cookie cutter league made up of branch units from coast to coast. If the money boys from Boston had their way, the NHL of today would give way to something resembling McHockey, where every team is run the same, with a blue print from head office.

The word that came out today had it that Gary Bettman and the owners met with a group from Boston that were prepared to put 3.5 billion American dollars on the table and take the problem of running NHL hockey away from the current crop of league governors. Bain Capital Partners and Game plan LLC are of the opinion that there may be quite a few current NHL owners looking to divest themselves of the money pit of professional hockey. And this apparently is no wing nut group out to make a name for itself. Bain is the co-owner of the Boston Celtics of the NBA and Game Plan was involved in the deal that kept the Ottawa Senators away from deaths doorstep last year.

They have done some homework on the situation and feel that a collectively run group out of a head office run as branches would be of financial benefit to the NHL, providing it with a franchise like program where each team would be provided with a branch manager to follow the goals of the collective. Kind of like central planning one assumes and a far cry from the current situation, which can resemble a wild west poker game when the big money teams get to clashing with their scrambling to survive fellow owners.

The one part of their argument that seems to be interesting is the idea that under the new owner each team would begin to work for the benefit of the whole. We'll wait to see Glen Sather offer up some assistance to Mike Milbury, now that would certainly be a momentous achievement by anyone's measure.

However, already some of the high rollers are dismissing the idea of this politburo of puck, the Leafs, Bruins and Rangers have already said interesting idea but we'll take a pass, which should put the kiss of death on the plan when the big money markets refuse to buy in.

Even more disturbing for NHL owners though is the money on the table, while 3.5 Billion may seem like a pretty steep number for a business currently out of business, it wasn't that long ago that the league value was estimated to be 4.9 Billion dollars. Obviously the market for NHL franchises is starting to tumble, should it go into free fall the current owners may rue the day they let the vulture guys get away.

So while the idea of the league turning into a Nortel or Enron may be remote, the chance of it turning into the service sector of pro sports is probably unlikely as well. But excuse us for a bit as we fantasize about Gary Bettman once the czar of hockey reduced to the crew chief on the late shift at McHockey's. Tis enough to make you want to have your order supersized...

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