Thursday, February 05, 2009

My accountants tell me...tales of the rosy glasses of Gary Bettman

We're not sure what to make of it all, but the fuzzy math and logic of Mr. Bettman was given a rough reception by the Toronto media this week, this after Mr. Bettman's deliverance of his Good News review to the National Club in the heart of the Leaf Nation.
Mr. Bettman trotted out his paperwork and grabbed his talking points to advise the gathered that the league will "endure, we will flourish".

It's a remark that has caught the attention of the ever watchful members of the media, who having sat in many of Mr. Bettman's arenas this year so far, can't help but notice that a number of the paying customers are disguised as empty seats, a financial indicator all to itself.

Even more telling is the revelation from the NHLPA that the union has increased the escrow amount deducted from players' pay cheques to 22.5 per cent for the third quarter of the season, an increase of ten percent and a hedge against future financial downturns on the NHL team balance sheets.

As David Shoalts points out in his article for the Globe and Mail, that NHLPA move is perhaps the best indication that the NHL financials aren't quite the gold standard that Mr. Bettman has portrayed, as in the end if the revenues don't meet the NHL's projections, then it's the players that will have to make up the difference from the escrow account.

By bumping up their contribution now, the players union is clearly suggesting that they believe that the economic pain is something that is on the way, Shoalts reminds us that the union does this so their membership doesn't have to take too large a hit and so far they've been pretty sharp stewards of their membership's money on this issue.

The other piece of fuzzy math that Mr. Shoalts examines is the interesting concept of teams buying up their own tickets, even if through a separate arm of the same company, a move that allows the struggling teams to show that the have a growing attendance and revenue pool to showcase, thus qualifying for revenue sharing from those teams that are still somewhat flush with cash.

That one may be a harder sell for the Commissioner, never mind the pesky press and their never ending questions, once you start taking money out of the pockets from the successful owners to prop up the teams that can only qualify through some fancy paperwork, well that's the kind of thing that executive reviews are made of.

Perhaps the Commissioner had best hope that the NHL team owners don't have time to read the newspapers, they might have a few questions of their own if the research proves correct.

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