Sunday, January 25, 2009

Everything is just okey dokey....

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman held his state of the game address in Montreal this weekend, painting a bit happier portrait than what you might read in the major newspapers, hear on the nations radio stations or perhaps view on the various television networks that pay attention to hockey.

With trouble reportedly flaring up in Phoenix, Nashville, Atlanta, Tampa and perhaps a few more that we haven't heard much about (hello there Long Island), the commish instead suggested that things are under control and that the picture isn't near as dire as we might have been led to believe.

While we hear reports of papered houses in a bid to qualify for league financial assistance and owners looking for lifelines, the commissioner was sticking to his talking points that the league is doing well in the midst of the current economic climate and that there needs to be more emphasis on the positives.

And while it's probably his job to put the best face forward for the league, it would seem to even the most casual of observers let alone the graduates of business school, that things aren't quite as wonderful as he might like us all to believe.

More than a few observers point out that the NHL benefited only by the timing of the current economic tribulations, with most of the season ticket sales and sponsorship contracts signed before the economy began its run towards the negatives.

The key might very well be the playoff season as Roy MacGregor points out in his article for the Globe and Mail, with layoffs and job terminations growing daily in the USA and to a degree in some Canadian cities, the prospect of a lot of disposable cash to spend on hockey tickets through April to June may not be very high.

Already there are problem areas in cities where sell outs use to be the norm, Detroit hard hit by economic times has noticed enough of a drop to be noticeable from those filling seats at the Joe, likewise Colorado is no longer a guaranteed sellout anymore, and that's before you reach the questionable ticket numbers in Nashville, Atlanta and other southern centres.

The NHL is a business, like many others in North America and the chances of it staying immunized to the current financial troubles seems unlikely, Mr. Bettman may be saying that the league is strong at this years all star break, one wonders however if the same claim will be able to be made when next years showcase meet and greet rolls around.

ESPN-- Olympics? Vegas? Bettman checks in
Edmonton Sun-- NHL commissioner denies possibility of changes to franchises
Toronto Sun-- Bettman's glass is half full
Globe and Mail-- Wait Mr. Commissioner ... we have some questions
CBC Sports-- NHL is holding its own economically: Bettman

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