Should the NHL be thinking about contraction?

Discussion in 'Fugu's Business of Hockey Forum' started by mfw13, Oct 22, 2006.

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  1. mfw13

    mfw13 Registered User

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    In my opinion, there are several reason why the NHL should be thinking about this.

    The first is to improve the quality of the product. Since the lastest round of expansion began in the early nineties, nine franchises have been added. This means that there are now roughly 180-200 players in the NHL who arguably should be playing in the minor leagues, or roughly 6-7 per team. Reduce the pool of players, and the quality of those remaining in the NHL will be higher. I find it funny that when everyone was so concerned about low scoring a few years ago, the dilution of talent caused by overexpansion was never seriously discussed.

    The second is that there are probably 8-10 very marginal franchises right now in terms of attendance. Now with the salary cap, even teams with poor attendance may still be able to make a go of it financially, but that doesn't mean it's good for the NHL as a whole. My criteria for a financially marginal franchise may be different from everyone else, but for the purpose of this discussion it's teams that do not consistently sell 90% of their available tickets, have consecutive seasons where they sell less than 80% of their tickets, or sell less than 90% of their tickets even when in the playoffs.

    Using these criteria, the teams which I would consider financially marginal are as follows:

    Chicago - have sold an average of only 68% of their tickets over the past five seasons, during which the made the playoffs only once. Suffer from horrible ownership and a soulless new arena, but a team with the Blackhawks tradition should still be able to sell 80% of their tickets even when things are bad.

    New Jersey - this franchise is the one that worries me the most. Even though they have been one of the top teams in hockey for the last 10-15 years, their attendance has consistently hovered around the 78% mark. They also play in a lousy arena in a poor location, and when Marty Broduer retires and the team starts missing the playoffs a few times, you could see attendance drop down to the 10,000-12,000 per game level. The fact that they barely drew 15,000 the season after winning the Stanley Cup in 2002-2003 is a big red flag.

    Atlanta - you've gotta wonder how long a non-hockey city will support a team that does not make the playoffs. They drew well their initial season, but in the five years since then have only sold about 78% of their tickets.

    NY Islanders - another team that suffers from poor ownership and a dilapidated arena. Have averaged about 80% of tickets sold over the last five years, during which they've made the playoffs three times.

    Washington - frankly, it's inexcuable that their attendance has been as poor as it is considering that they are generally a pretty solid team, have had some stars such a Jagr to draw fans, and play in a city filled with lobbyists. They've averaged just over 80% of tickets sold over the past five years, during which they've made the playoffs three times.

    Carolina - It will be very interesting to see how well they draw this year after winning the cup. Hopefully, their cup win will have the same affect on their franchise as winning the cup did on Tampa Bay. They've only sold 77% of their tickets the last five years, and if they do not sell 90-95% this year, I would be very concerned.

    Florida - With the expection of the season after making the finals, have never sold more than 84% of their tickets in their history. Very worrisome, since Miami is not a traditional hockey market.

    Anaheim - despite making the finals several years ago and the conference finals last year, have never been able to develop a really solid fan base. Only sold 87% of their tickets the year after making the cup finals, and have averaged just under 82% over the past five years. However, their attendance has been stronger the last two years. Nevertheless, if they do not break 90% this year coming off a trip to the conference finals and having added Chris Pronger, I would be very concerned.

    St. Louis - has always seemed to be a solid hockey town, but that may be more of a function of the fact that the Blues made the playoffs 26 years in a row. Attendance dropped off the face of the planet last year, as the Blues drew more than 4200 fans fewer than in 2003-2004 in a rebuilding year. Attendance looks like it will be equally poor this year, and if management does not turn things around quickly on the ice the franchise could be in trouble.

    Ignoring the feasibility of whether the NHL could get the players to agree to contraction even if it wanted to, it has some seriously questions to ask itself. To start with, can New York strongly support three teams and can Los Angeles support two? What happens to the NHL in Los Angeles when an NFL team eventually comes back? How strong are the franchises in non-traditional markets? Not only do you have the recent expansion teams in the south mentioned above, but you also have the western markets such as Phoenix, Dallas, and Denver that other teams moved to. Looking at what is happening in St. Louis, you have to wonder about how strong the Dallas and Denver franchises are, considering that both teams have been periennial Stanley Cup contenders and the fans have never had to have their commitment tested by a few years of poor results. It will be very interesting to see how well the Avs draw this year now that they may not make the playoffs.
     
  2. TorontoSports

    TorontoSports Registered User

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    Contraction would kill the league. Contraction means the league ultimately failed, now tell me what sponsors, fans, television channels would touch the NHL after contraction? No one. Also last night, Nashville and Atlanta outdrew many hockey markets in attendance. Let the ignorant/traditional hick statements go. Contraction isn't going to get people to notice the NHL, they'll just laugh even more.
     
  3. joshjull

    joshjull Moderator

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    The 80% and 90% thresholds you have are completely unrealistic. The NFL last year set a secord for paid attendance( actual tickets sold). It worked out to be about 90% of stadium capacity. http://www.nfl.com/news/story/9146140 Your expecting the NHL to have a better or as good ticket sales as the most popular sport in America's best season ever. :shakehead
     
  4. lisario

    lisario Registered User

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    I've got a problem with a bunch of your picks for contraction (which I don't think will happen anyway), because if the league didn't shut down teams that were teetering on the brink of bankruptcy before the lockout, they're not going to now, with most teams doing better financially than they were before.

    Chicago - This is an Original Six team. If you think that this team is going to be contracted or even moved, you're crazy.

    New Jersey - They're moving into a new arena in a better location (Newark) next year.

    Atlanta - Atlanta's the 8th largest media market, has a fantastic arena, and have you seen how they're playing this year? They look like a solid pick to make the playoffs, and a good one to go to the second or third round. If they keep kicking butt, butts will fill the seats.

    Anaheim - 87% is a lot higher than the other numbers you've mentioned here, and the Ducks were the trendy pick to win it all this year. So I've got to think that their attendance should rise this season as well.

    And this leads me to a few questions, where are you getting these percentages? What are the numbers for teams that obviously aren't going anywhere, like the Leafs, Red Wings and Flyers?

    And you're right, by the way, about the NHL having a rough time convincing the players to agree to contraction. The players would be voting to fire, in essences, a full third of their coworkers. If the CBA requires their consent for contraction to take place, I just don't see it happening.
     
  5. bictron

    bictron Registered User

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    I'd rather have 6 teams less or so, but it's not going to happen. Contraction shouldn't be an option right now.

    However, I agree that the talent was diluted for a long time.
     
  6. nomorekids

    nomorekids The original, baby

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    People seem to think contraction is an easy, common thing. It never happens in a healthy league, and like it or not, the NHL is about as healthy as it's ever been. Some people around here hope for it...but it simply won't happen.

    And the "diluted talent" argument is weak, too. A team like Nashville, who has guys that by all rights belong in the NHL like Radulov and Kevin Klein...has enough of hard time finding spots for guys, let alone having to try to force people who aren't ready.
     
  7. redwingsdude

    redwingsdude Registered User

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    Agreed, NMK.

    Contraction is just a terrible idea. Sure everyone says "Why so many teams?" and "Why are there teams in the South?", and they call for contraction, but you can't just cut teams at will. The teams are making money, and no matter how traditional you are, it's just not going to happen.

    NHL: Oh hey St. Louis
    St. Louis: hey, what's wrong?
    NHL: Well, you've been great all these years, earning us money, making the playoffs all those years.
    St. Louis: Is this what I think it is?
    NHL: We...We're...Well, we're gonna have to let you go....


    It doesn't work like that.
     
  8. jkrdevil

    jkrdevil UnRegistered User

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    I think the league expanded to quickly a bit. The talent level wasn't diluted as interest was. There are now many more teams that fans are indifferent about. That leads to when those teams come in lower attendance numbers.

    That said the league shouldn't contract. Like others said it would kill the league. Moving teams hurts a leagues image because it highlights unhealthy teams, but to just elimate teams is far worse than movement. At least with movement you are replacing that lost market. Yea the leageu expanded too quickly to the point where it may have diluted interest a bit. That said it was probably good in the long term. The league needed to get a little more visible in the south. I just wish some people had patience and let the markets grow. It's not something that happens over night it's something that happens over generations.
     
  9. Sanderson

    Sanderson Registered User

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    There is more than enough talent for 30 teams, no reason for contraction.

    Defensive systems and clutch&grab weren't the only reasons why scoring went down. If you improve the talent of the bottom-six, defensemen no.5 to 7 and in goal, scoring will go down.
    The better the worst players in the league are, the less goals will be scored.
     
  10. #37

    #37 Registered User

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    I agree with this. Like I always used to say, the league needs more defensemen like Yannick Trembley... how else do you keep scoring up?
     
  11. Sens Rule

    Sens Rule Registered User

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    Any argument for contraction that includes great markets like St. Louis or potentially great markets like Chicago is basically moronic. St Louis is a phenominal market for like 15 or 20 seasons in a row then they finish last overall and attendance goes down? Like Duh! of course it goes down. Even Montreal would not sell out or come close with a last place overall team. Only Toronto would sell out with a terrible team. So they have a bad season and a half so we contract them? The argument is so poor it is nearly beyond belief.

    No contraction is needed. All the teams are doing well enough in the cities they are in. If there was a problem with an arena or something in a city or 2 and the team had to move there are 4 or 5 good cities to move that team (s) to.

    The quality of the NHL product is fine and shows no need for contraction whatsoever.
     
  12. Psycho Papa Joe

    Psycho Papa Joe Porkchop Hoser

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    I think there is enough talent to fill more than 30 teams. A couple of years ago it appeared the talent was watered down, but IMO that was because the talent was not allowed to be showcased because of the way the game was being called, not because their wasn't enough talent. Since the 'New NHL' has taken hold, the talent is once again at the forefront, and IMO this is an incredibly deep and talented league. I watch some AHL hockey, and IMO there is alot of talent down there as well, not to mention the Euro leagues. Hockey as a whole is very healthy from a talent standpoint.

    I could probably put together a pretty good roster or two of non-NHL players.
     
  13. Diehardfan419

    Diehardfan419 Registered User

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    Im actually for contraction, but not by such drastic levels. Id like to see the league contract by only 2 teams. This drops the league to a still respectible 28 teams. That, IMO, is also when the NFL was at its best. The NFL also overexpanded, IMO, and it is a really watered down league. Back to the the NHL, id contract Florida and Pittsburgh. Id then move Columbus or Nashville to the Eastern Conference to balance the league out. And how bout that expansion draft??? Crosby, Malkin, Bertuzzi, Horton, etc.
     
  14. Irish Blues

    Irish Blues Present once again

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    I ... don't even know where to start. So many misinformed comments made in the OP, so little time ...
     
  15. mfw13

    mfw13 Registered User

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    Please note that I did not argue that any of the franchises I mentioned should be contracted. What I did is state that these are the franchises which could become financially marginal at current attendance levels.

    Before you criticize what I am saying and call me an idiot, make sure you have carefully read what I said!

    Keep in mind that because the NHL does not have a good TV contract, attendance is hugely important. Like it or not, there are not going to be too many franchises that can survive financially drawing under 14,000 a game, even with the salary cap. Over the last fifteen years, the NHL has added ten teams in non-traditional hockey markets (San Jose, Anaheim, Phoenix, Dallas, Denver, Nashville, Raleigh, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Florida). Anybody who is 100% certain that all of them are viable over the long term has their head stuck in the sand.
     
  16. Irish Blues

    Irish Blues Present once again

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    :rolleyes: Well, gee ... any NHL team (save the Rangers and Maple Leafs and maybe a couple others) that has weak attendance numbers for 3 or more years can become financially marginable. The better questions to be asking are "Why is this team having problems drawing at the game?", "Did the team have problems drawing before their current situation came about?", "How long would it reasonably take for the team's situation to change for the better?" and "If their current situation got better, would attendance improve?"

    If a team has always had problems drawing crowds, change is years away and making things better wouldn't put more fans in seats, then yes ... there is a problem. Otherwise, it's a little premature to be declaring that any team is on life support.

    Besides, if contraction was such the cure-all many think it is, teams like the NFL's Cardinals should have been contracted years ago when they struggled to draw crowds in St. Louis (not the fault of the city) and later in Phoenix (again, not the fault of the city). They haven't been ... and there's a reason for that.
     
  17. #37

    #37 Registered User

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    Bah, thats no fun...
     
  18. Plager05

    Plager05 Registered User

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    The amount of people playing hockey in St.Louis has probably gone up 500 percent since the Blues came. We have lots of Division 1 guys and even a few prospect from the area. This is probably the center of hockey in the midwest that's not close to canada.
     
  19. OpAck

    OpAck Registered User

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    Poor ownership? Charles Wang is far from poor. In fact, he's dumped more money into two of the team's top stars than he should have. He's made subtle improvements to the Nassau Coliseum for the short term and is turning his dream of developing the Nassau Hub into reality: http://lighthouseli.com/ If that falls through, which at this point...it likely won't, Wang's not gonna sell...in fact, there are rumors he'd move the team to neighboring Suffolk County. The very lucrative cable deal is what has helped keep this team on Long Island and there is another 20 or so years left on that contract.

    Sure, Wang may have made some seriously questionable moves since he came here, but those moves only make it more certain that the team is remaining where they are. Some people think he's a lunatic, others think his business model is hokey. But regardless, he is one of the more committed owners in the league...with his sole interest of keeping this team on Long Island and developing the Nassau Hub.

    Fact: the Isles have some of the highest ticket prices in the league with an on-ice product that has a bunch of question marks. If this team starts winning...the seats will fill up.
     
  20. Transplanted Caper

    Transplanted Caper Registered User

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    I follow the Leafs and have grown up in the Ottawa area. Thus, I feel I can have an relatively informed opinion on 2 markets. I know jack squat about the other 28 at least in terms of what would need to be known to have an intelligent discussion about contraction. I know my home team, and not much else in terms of ecnomics/fanbase/ownership/local issues etc, etc. I'm willing to be 99% of posters here are in the EXACT same position. Lets not try and pretend to understand markets we know little about
     
  21. canes-sth

    canes-sth Registered User

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    Has someone already brought up the *cost* of contracting? Are the other 24 owners going to pony up the funds to buy out the unlucky clubs that get the axe? Ya think the NHLPA is going to support the idea of losing any NHL player positions AND reducing revenues to which they are so now so closely tied?
     
  22. xterminator24

    xterminator24 Registered User

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    I don't think contraction is a very good idea.

    I've highlighted the point that I disagree with. I have a different opinion than many on the quality of the current product. I belive that the players today are more talented and the gap between the good players and the bad ones in the league has actually shrunk. This is why the big stars in the league don't dominate and stand out like they used to.

    If you don't agree with my point, watch some of the classic games on the NHL network. You'll see a huge gap in talent between the top players on the ice and the bottom guys. A fourth liner in today's NHL can usually skate with the top line, and is good enough defensively to keep a top line in check. In the classic NHL games, if a top line got out against the 4th liners, it was lights out.

    All players coming into the league today, including the tough guys, were the top players on their teams in minor hockey and for the most part in junior hockey as well. Case in point, Jody Shelly of Columbus. I played against him in minor hockey in NS and he was one of the best, if not the best midget player in the league. He could score at will and skate faster than anyone else. He's now a perrienial PIM leader, and one of these so called watered-down players.

    Take the time to watch some of the old games and instead of paying attention to the stars of the time, watch the other players. Many of them couldn't keep up to the pace, and this allowed the stars to dominate. Cutting teams out of the league is only going to worsen the biggest issue today, which believe it or not, may be a case of too much talent.
     
  23. Makel

    Makel Guest

    You want to bring up contraction but you fail to bring out many, many points.

    A) Do you think it's fair that the New York Rangers have the busiest train station in the world directly underneath it's stadium?

    B) Do you think it's fair that Nassau County treates the Islanders like garbage when their the main reason that country has any economic stability. The owners offers to build a brand new arena, etc and they still won't let him.

    C) Do you think it's fair that the nut running the Blackhawks refuses to televise games while icing pathetic AHL comparison teams?

    Etc, etc. When the teams are winning the fans come out in herds.

    The NHL is a niche sport and will continue to get spotty attendance. It's the nature of the game and LIFE.

    Unless you build a train station underneath every stadium than every team will have issues. EVERY.
     
  24. The Rage

    The Rage Registered User

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    The talent dilution argument completely ignore the influx of Europeans. And even if talent has been diluted, how has that possibly decreased scoring? The QHL has far inferior talent, yet superior scoring totals to the NHL. How does that make sense according to the logic presented by the thread starter? :shakehead
     
  25. jkrdevil

    jkrdevil UnRegistered User

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    Well even that doesn't necessarily work. Look at the Capitals. But yes the Rangers directly benifit from being in the smack damn middle of Manhattan directly above Penn Station. Move the team to another part of the city (say Queens) and the Rangers won't draw as well.
     

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