Monthly Archives: August 2007

Men With Money Taunt Bettman; Failure Looms

An interesting story popped up today, somewhat along the lines of the on-again/off-again NHL love affair with Boots Del Biaggio.

This time, the source is a sickeningly wealthy firm that apparently hates their own money so much, they invested $250 million in David Beckham to play in a league that is even less popular than the NHL in a sport that despite its ever-presence in modern child rearing refuses to get popular professionally in the United States.

Las Vegas staple casino Harrah’s is teaming up with AEG Worldwide to build a $500 million dollar arena meant to lure either an NBA or NHL franchise to Sin City.

As we’ve seen with the Kansas City/Boots situation, the allure of having a big money facility with no one around to fill it up and make more money for overly wealthy people, Gary Bettman and the NHL owners can’t resist free money even despite their best recent efforts to pass on free money with Balsillie.

Obviously Las Vegas has an 800-pound Gorilla by the name of legal gambling and given the issues both the NBA and the NHL have had recently with gambling issues, this announcement by Harrah’s and AEG couldn’t have had worse timing. Obviously David Stern and Heir Bettman would rather that Harrah’s and AEG had not come right out and plead/demand/pray for publicly to get a franchise from one of or both leagues.

Fact is, Las Vegas (and likewise with Kansas City) would be a bad move for the NHL to expand to. If they want to move a floundering team in a disinterested market to one of these cities, that’s a different argument entirely – however, just the idea that the NHL is even thinking of expanding is a terrible idea. Think of the current talent level in the NHL. It’s not bad, right? Sure, every team has their line of bums while some teams have three lines of stiffs.

Don’t be fooled by the players that are off to play in Europe and think that there’s enough talent to go around and still have an overall great game to watch, that’s not the case. Imagine some teams rolling four lines of stiffs or washed up vets with perhaps a stellar goaltender. Care to guess what style of play they’ll want to use? Consulting recent NHL history will tell you exactly what they’ll try to, and likely get away with, doing to win games.

Now, picture this style of play trying to fill up massive and massively expensive arenas in very non-traditional hockey markets – ones that at one time had professional hockey of some sort before that failed away. How well is that going to go over? How fun would it be to play playoff hockey games in June in Las Vegas? Bettman is still convinced that U.S. sun belt cities in hockey ignorant areas are the way to go for the future and if he can give his bosses, the owners, a few extra million dollars a piece to make them keep hiring him back… well, I can see how this is going to go.

Let’s just hope that Las Vegas doesn’t turn into Rick Tocchet’s way back into the NHL.

The Clock Ticks Away

That’s right, just less than a month away from the start of NHL training camps and still many teams have yet to unveil the new uniforms they’ll be sporting this year and likely out of fear of a complete fan backlash. Only a handful of teams have unleashed Reebok’s fury upon the eyes of the public, and perhaps delaying things til the absolute latest time possible is the right thing to do.

I’m disappointed with the league for a lot of reasons and one of them is for this all-consuming, overwhelming edict from the Captain of the Titanic Bettman to have all teams change up everything they were doing and give into Reebok (since they’re a big time sponsor of the league now and everything) and let them design everyone’s uniforms in the way they feel will enhance performance the best. We caught a glimpse of what these uniforms will be like at the All-Star Game as well as in the World Junior Championships and the Olympics in Turin, Italy.

This, in a nutshell, is Capt. Bettman’s management plan to fix everything that’s gone wrong with the NHL since he’s taken over. Have some marketing guru come up with a big plan, pony up the money and materials to pull it off, and he willingly allows the game to become his testing ground for it. So long history, so long nostalgia, so long to everything that ever worked before – this new and fangled operation will surely work best!

After all, it’s got a record of not having failed already! Nevermind that Reebok had fallen off the marketing map when it came to athletic apparel and sneaker sales, Reebok was big when the NHL was last big in the eyes of the world! The early 1990′s! Coincidence? NO WAY! It’s gotta be truth!

In comes Reebok with their new designs and Bettman doing his best to suck up to them and tout how much they’re going to improve the game and the performance of the players (not to mention their comfort!) while ignoring the actual problems with the game. You know… the kind that would take competent officials on and off the ice to fix.

Paul Lukas who contributes to ESPN.com’s Page 2 periodically runs his own website where any and all logo and uniform changes are analyzed and applauded (or roasted) depending on how they turn out and his eye has been keenly tuned in on the mangling we’ve seen with the NHL uniforms. He particularly lashed out at the Florida Panthers new designs and the apparent lack of originality being used by other teams following the same kind of cookie cutter format to detailing (Nashville also has the same style and another team he wasn’t at liberty to mention used it and is apparently uglier than Florida…yikes).

Now I say this is a bad thing for the NHL because, what do the hardcore fans always buy? Jerseys of course. NHL fans are die-hards for sure, but by slimming down the jerseys and making a point to say that they’re not designing these with the fans in mind…well really NHL, why not just kick us all in the teeth while you’re at it? Lots of fans now have outdated jerseys that will never see the light of day again all while being told that while they can purchase the new ones being made, they’re going to cost a lot more than the previous ones both for authentics and replicas.

So if you’re marking this all down in your scorebooks the owners:

- Continue to jack up ticket prices
- Don’t think twice about doing “premium pricing” for when certain opponents are in town
- Have made any and all previous team purchases by fans obsolete
- Created a new product and line of products without even taking the fan into consideration
- Made it so that the cost for the new product is significantly higher (when it was pricey to begin with)

The NHL wonders why it can’t earn new fans when all it does is kick dirt in the face of the fans they’ve already got. Incredible.