Chicago, IL — In what was inevitable another NHL lockout, both sides appear to be playing a very high stakes game of poker. One which both sides are willing or at least say they are willing to go all in for. It occurred to me that there are many similarities between the two. In poker you bet, bluff, read body languages, strategize and calculate odds and hold what you think is a winning hand to hopefully come away winning a large pot. The larger the pot you win your odds increase in you winning the game or tournament in the long run.
The difference in negotiations is while there ultimately is a winner and loser the appearance must be a win/win situation. That is crucial to successful negotiations. While the NHL and the NHLPA cannot agree on specific terms or dollars that each side should be entitled to both sides would agree it is to their mutual benefit that the pot does indeed get larger rather than smaller.
In a numbers game it is easy to figure out that 47% of a larger pot is better than 57% of a smaller pot, NHLPA please take note and do the math. It is also easy to figure out that what makes the pot larger is if your product namely the NHL games and players are seen so fans can put their hard-earned monies willingly into that pot for all to enjoy, please take note NHL owners. I think everyone can agree while Chicago Blackhawk fans like Rocky Wirtz we do not want to see him stickhandle we would rather see Patrick Kane do that thank you very much and he and the rest of the players are the draw here. So while both sides argue over numbers the real issue both sides should be focusing on is getting the pot larger.
What if both sides are equally skilled in betting, bluffing, reading tells, calculating odds and have equal hands then what? In poker parlance it will usually end up in a split pot. Point being the larger the pot the more that can be shared by both players and the longer they will be in a position to play the poker game.
NHLPA at least seems to understand that there are some smaller markets that need assistance if the league is thrive. They were willing to take less now to ensure these smaller markets did eventually get to a profitable state. The owners scoffed at the NHLPA’s suggestion of revenue sharing but at some point this unfortunately is something they will need to address if the NHL is to survive at all.
Most hockey fans love the game of hockey and will admit hockey’s greatest masterpiece is the NHL. The league has grown 50% since the last lockout in 2005 from 2.2 billion to 3.3 billion. Even if their growth went down from 50% to 30% due to depressed economies the pot would still be raised to 4.3 billion. That being the case for all hockey fans here are a couple of suggestions on growing your pot.
Try and negotiate for a handsome sum a deal with HBO to follow a team 24/7 for the entire training camp. It worked for the NFL give it a try. The best option here would be either Canadian teams like the Canucks, Leafs or Canadiens be featured or an Original Six franchise like the Blackhawks, Bruins or Rangers or hockey market teams like Philadelphia or Pittsburgh. This will not only bring in more money for the league it will also bring fans closer to teams and possible bring in new fans.
How entertaining was it when Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov became one with the universe for all of us to see. HBO or your own network NBC I’m sure would not have any trouble entertaining us with sound bites and antics that happen in NHL locker rooms. God knows the entertainment we would be privy to see when NHL teams are on the road.
Everyone enjoyed the Canadian vs USA finals in the Olympics right? Well why not have a series like this every couple of years say the years there are Summer Olympics and no Winter Olympics. Call it the battle of North American hockey. I would include European Leagues but the logistics and travel costs may not be practical. If they are then include Europe by all means. Hockey is an international sport so take advantage of that.
While we are no longer in the cold war every hockey fan would enjoy a KHL vs NHL. Who wouldn’t tune in to SEL vs NHL. The potential revenues for these events could be jinormous. Between broadcast deals and advertising alone would create a bonanza for the NHL. Let alone the merchandise sales that would be generated for everyone involved. If Europe were included this would also be a good stage to test interest if the NHL wanted to eventually have franchises abroad.
The NFL has come up with for a charge fans can get the actual game films that the coaches use. Now hockey is a different game, and X’s & O’s are not nearly as important as they are to NFL football there is still a potential market here. Coach’s philosophies and basic X’s & O’s of hockey could be discussed. Important or game changing plays could be analyzed and explained in detail what happened both on the offensive side and defensive side. Believe me people would be interested in this and it would educate people and further the game of hockey in general.
This could be done via a subscription for either a week by week or season long fee on the NHL’s website. If the NHL can get several coaches or assistant coaches to go along with this you could give fans a choice of which coaches they wanted to see or hopefully fans would get all. This could also be helpful to junior league and pee wee hockey coaches ect.
Since the NHLPA brought up the struggling smaller markets why not try to bolster these markets with say pre-season scrimmages between hot market teams and these struggling teams. These pre-season scrimmages could charge a nominal fee say of $5-$10 and broadcast via team websites for reduced rates. So since the Columbus Blue Jackets are a struggling market arrange for organized scrimmage games between say the Chicago Blackhawks and the Blue Jackets in Columbus for a couple of games. Guarantee Chicago Blackhawk fans would go to Columbus which would help the Blue Jackets and would also get both teams some decent competition prior to the pre-season.
The reining Stanley Cup champion LA Kings could go to Phoenix to play the Coyotes and help out that franchise. You get the idea. Since no one is happy with pre-season games I would only suggest 2 or 3 of these type scrimmage games but it could help out these struggling franchises.
The Winter Classic has proven to be a huge success both financially and for the game and fans as well, why not have two? This would immediately impact the NHL’s revenues since these games are played in stadium/arenas that are triple to quadruple the size of normal NHL venues.
February is one of the slowest months sports wise with the NFL wrapping up their season with the Superbowl. The NHL would have a captive audience say on Presidents day to hold this event? This is just a suggestion. The event depending on the participating teams could have a catchy name for the match-ups. Say the Flyers played the Penguins it could be the Battle of Keystone or if Chicago played St. Louis it could be the Black and Blue Battle. If the Canucks played either the Leafs or Canadiens it could be the Battle of Canada.
All of these notions are simply suggestions for the both the NHL & NHLPA to contemplate to gain some common ground. In the current CBA there is a joint committee on Broadcasting and marketing that was established to further enhance the game these are just some points for both sides to consider.
Let’s hope both sides don’t forget that unlike poker where each side antes up their own money to stake a pot, the NHL requires fans to stake their pots. Since fans are not asked to participate in the betting, bluffing, calculating of the odds their interest will wane in wanting to contribute to a pot that they have no chance of winning. A miss step in calculating the odds of fan loyalty could cost both sides tremendously and that unfortunately is no bluff.