Sunday, March 29, 2009

Can Economic pain bring hockey gain to Canada?

The continuing financial troubles around the world are making for some nervous moments for NHL head office types, those at least that read profit and loss statements, attendance figures and can count empty seats rather than promotional gimmicks.

In the Saturday edition of the Globe and Mail, Stephen Brunt once again provides a fascinating outline of the current state of the game below the 49th parallel, where the Bettman hope of a strong footprint to the south and west is finding little traction, where the league's main financial trouble spots all seem to be based in the south and west and where the answer to many of the league's current concerns could be found back where the game still resonates with the population, where ticket sales are rarely a concern and where corporate dollars may still find their way into a hockey rink without the need for liquor sale gimmicks or discounted seats.

Brunt provides more than enough of a review of the NHL's concerns to make the case that those once dismissed Canadian cities of the past may one day be the salvation for the NHL and for the NHLPA membership which may wish to continue to be paid for playing the game.

While he correctly points out that Gary Bettman is probably unlikely to admit that his blue print for the game was flawed or that the current structure isn't working, but Mr. Bettman is but an employee of the thirty league owners, many of whom may be getting a little tired of propping up the ongoing problems of Phoenix, Atlanta, or southern Florida.

Better to take in investors who actually have dollars to invest than to keep spending money on teams that can't find a market, can't find followers and in some cases may be having more than a few problems keeping their financials in check.

For those that have long hoped for a return of the NHL to it's homeland the day may not be too far away when those hopes become reality. Whether Mr. Bettman will be making the announcements however may be an item that is still to be discussed.

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