Across the Atlantic is one of the hot spots for what I like to call Displaced NHLers (DN’s). Several of our best have gone there because of The Lockout. The next Olympics is ‘over there.’ It’s basically, happenin’ professionally. North America currently is not so much.
So why not be brazen and bold in this Lockout period and opt for the unexpected. Don’t shrink the NHL – expand it. Go European. Here’s how it could play out…
Show Me The Money
If the NHL expanded eastward, it would need an even number of teams. That number would not need to be so many that it was gangly and filled with ‘gimme game’ teams. But it also would need to be worthwhile in size to make travel work.
So six teams would seem like a good round number. Our recommendations would be:
Helsinki, Finland; Hartwell Arena (13,506 capacity)
Berlin, Germany; O2 Arena (14,200); (they could go with Cologne and its 18,500 Lanxess Arena instead)
St. Petersburg, Russia; Ice Palace Saint Petersberg (12,300); (a bigger arena would need to be built; you would think Moscow here, but all arenas are smallish and there is KHL competition in town)
Stockholm, Sweden; Ericsson Globe Arena (13,850)
Prague, Czech Republic; O2 Arena (17,000)
And Bern, Switzerland; Post Finance Arena Bern (17,131)
Those countries have the largest percentage of registered players at multiple development levels in Europe. While we know not all players on, say, the Swiss Baren (German plural for Bears) would come from Switzerland, demographics require a game-supportive population and system to feed the sport’s future growth. Still, those size arenas suggest a Winnipeg Jets-like economic input into the system. Arenas would likely have to expand.
This reorganization and expansion would look like this for what, in effect, would become the World Hockey League:
And to assist with a revenue sharing pot to quell apparently cash-starved owners, the Winnipeg model indicates 6 x $60M US would put $360,000,000 on the table up front, not to mention European TV/Cable broadcast money ($140M a year makes a first year $500M treasure chest). (I see a partnership for broadcasts in local, English and French Canadian languages through The NHL Network and another SiriusXM NHL Network Radio to cover games that start at noon U.S. time here.) Naming and branding rights, sponsorships, merchandising, media packages… You are just blinded by multiple dollar signs, aren’t you?
How Do They Do It?
Let’s assume the NHL first and foremost does not want to have the season stretch later in the year (June) than it already does to complete a season. There are some constraints here:
1. You will have to start the season in mid-September. This means a shorter training camp and pre-season. But with rookie camps and current player training regimens practically year around, so what? Shorten the maximum allowable number of pre-season games to four and start camp on 1 September.
2. There has to be a model for road trips to Europe and North America. It must take into consideration jet lag on both ends and would likely be best if there were no back-to-back games played. The model suggests teams make 17-Day trips to Europe or North America. In Europe, North American teams play every Euro team on one road trip. In North America, Euro teams play every team in one division. Here is an example of each:
So potentially, you could have 17 days with no games played in Europe, and 17-days with no North American home game. More on how it all fits together below.
3. With the 17-day road trip model above, you cannot play 82-games. You can play 76, however, which provides for eight games per divisional rival (40), a home-and-away game against everyone else in your Conference (24), and one per team in two of three, cross-Conference divisions (12 more, for 72 total). Because of the latter, it takes two years to play one cycle against every team and three years to get a home-and-away cycle against every team. We say you run the entire cycle twice, for a total of six years, before any CBA is reviewed. Where “A” is away and “H” is home, the cross-Conference game spread looks like this:
4. Putting Nos. 1 – 3 above together, you get the “Cycles” below. In RED are 17-day road trips across the Atlantic. In YELLOW are 17-day home stands where an Intra-Conference Division visits from across the Atlantic. These road trips may seem like a pain, but they support such things as the circus in Chicago, summer renovations to Madison Square Garden and hockey tournaments for developmental leagues. And “Division Pairs” are our old recommendation of back-to-back games between division rivals – these pairs are randomly scheduled to meet arena needs.
The 186 days required equals approximately three games per week, a sustainable number for recuperation from injuries and the increase in travel. If you are looking at the 2012-13 calendar, there are 188 days between 10 September ’12 and 31 March ’13.
5. Finally, the playoffs. A newer format ensues here:
a. The top twoteams from each division play each other in Round 1, along with the next two, best teams as ‘wildcards.’ In the ‘Eastern’ Conference, yes, this might see the wildcard teams playing a cross-Atlantic series. If that is the case, they play a 2 – 3 – 2 series to facilitate cross-Atlantic travel. We call this the ‘Top 2 + 2 Round’ where the best-of-seven series winners advance to Round 2.
b. The top four teams in each Conference are then re-seeded. (No.1 plays No.4 and No. 2 plays No. 3, decided by the normal seeding tie-breakers currently in effect in the NHL.) This round is a guaranteed seven games, or what we call a ‘Best In 7″ Round. It is played in the same 2 – 3 – 2 series as cross-Atlantic wildcard matchups to facilitate that travel. The two teams advancing to the Conference finals do so based on a requirement for at least three wins over the seven games PLUSthe winning goal differential. We will let your imagination run wild here, but this in effect kills the shot blocking, defense-first mentality of the current playoff system in order to draw more new fan attention.
c. The two Conference Finalists are seeded and play the same, Best In 7 series as in Round 2 with 2 – 3 – 2′s a potential schedule if cross-Atlantic play ensures.
d. The Stanley Cup Finals are a best-of-seven ‘Final’s series like Round 1 and what is already played today. If it is a cross-Atlantic matchup, it goes 2 – 3 – 2.
In doing the above, you have effectively put teams into Round 1 who have the gumption to win, have added emphasis on team offense in Rounds 2 & 3, and provided a finals with, presumably, the two most-well rounded, surviving teams in the League.
These four rounds of playoffs would take approximately 71 days (1 April to 10 June ’13) with those odd, random, no-game days between series to set schedules and look like the below. (Note here that the red ‘y’ indicates how the last ’2′ in a 2 – 3 – 2 series is played instead of how the two “X” – non cross-Atlantic – games are played.)
There are a couple of others, cool notes in doing this:
There are intangibles I haven’t covered or even thought up yet, but they all tend to grow the game.
So our DN’s have already found Europe. Why shouldn’t the NHL, and in a bigger way than the season openers of the previous couple of seasons?
Why not put money in the pot to help teams that struggle?
Why not be fair and potentially give our European family who produces 23% of the NHL’s players 16.7% of the teams in a 36-team League?
Why not drop to 76 games and have more players, more healthy come playoff time?
Why not change the current playoff format to something a little closer to the 1980’s Edmonton Oilers than we currently display now?
All in all, European expansion is harder to do. But in the spirit of the phrase “No road easy to walk down ever leads anywhere,” this change would be a win for the NHL, NHLPA and Hockey Fans on a more global scale.
Come on NHL, scrap your old name for the World Hockey League (WHL) and forget real sleep for nine months of every year. Bring us a more worldly game.
Wait a minute here. Our NHL Lockout problem is simple
matheCapamatics. Here – have a look:
Total revenue made last year: $3,300,000,000. If we stick with that as assumed profits this year…
Players’ salaries this year per salary caps plus bonuses (thanks, Capgeek!) are $1,853,037,118 / 56.15% / $2,701,220.29 average per player.
Difference of total team revenue – salaries = $1,446,962,882 / 43.85% of total revenue / $48,232,096.07 per team.
Forgetting for a moment this is the system designed by the NHL/ownership seven years ago, you have to agree it is not working properly if there are teams that are losing $M’s each year. And all of the issue cannot simply be bad management. Even the players agree they are willing to give up some revenue to assist teams that are operating under financial distress.
So, you can go ahead and go to a 50/50 split of revenue. For the players, that means they get a total hit against the cap of -$203,037,118 / -6.15% / -$295,972.48 average per player.
And for the owners, they receive +$203,037,118 / +6.15% / +$6,767,903.93 per team if it is split evenly 30 ways. I’m sorry – what did you say? I said a whopping +$6,767,903.93 per team. That’s in the ball park of one Zdeno Chara to Boston, or a Brad Richards to the New York Rangers. Which financially distressed team is that going to fix? How about none. Even reversing roles and going down to a 43% split for players, teams under last years’ numbers would only receive an average of around $13.5M this year. (Parise or Suter plus Backstrom for a Minnesota.)
So folks, we fans are getting locked out of our favorite sport while the NHL ownership demands the players give back an amount of money to ass/u/medly fix team financial issues that won’t fix their financial issues.
The NHLPA is absolutely correct – you have to do something to fix the way revenue is shared in order to strengthen teams overall. You cannot just take money back from the players or we will be in this same spot when the next CBA expires. And who the hell wants to do that a fourth time?
So what can they do? Here is our suggestion at OGA. Honor the contracts you wrote and signed with the players. No do overs. NHL ownership, you did that already last time and it did not fix your woes. “But how?” they would ask…
If the players drop to 50% from now through the life of the agreement, they would begin next year with an average cap of $55M per team. “Wait a minute – how are they going to honor our contracts?” players would angrily ask…
Teams would now fall under a hard and soft cap. Anyone at $55M and below (NSH, COL, FLA, STL, DAL, OTT, NYI and PHX) do not have to do anything as they meet the hard cap requirement. Where you have a Dallas Stars team with Jamie Benn as an RFA, you are given a chance to sign him and, if you bust the cap, then you, too, fall under the soft cap provisions below.
For all other teams not listed in parentheses above, you have a soft cap for anything above the hard cap of $55M. The total here is about a whopping $169M (after which about $34M / $1.1M per team they took back from the players who dropped to 50% of HRR is retained). The soft cap remains on teams’ books until it is either wiped out, or the cap evens things back out due to continued revenue growth with the following stipulations:
1. The soft cap may be retained in part or its entirety by teams until such time as it is zeroed out or the growing cap consumes it. But any amount retained in a soft cap is matched 100% as a soft cap tax which goes into an economically distressed team fund distributed by the NHL to its owners per the Commissioner.
2. You can buyout a player. If you buy him out without his consent, he receives 100% of the contract over the remaining years of term and that buyout carries no hit against the soft cap. If you buy him out with his consent, he receives 75% of the contract over the remaining years of term and that does not count against the soft cap any more.
3. If a bought out player signs with another team, the losing team loses all financial responsibility for his contract
4. You can trade out a player. If you trade him to another team, they assume 100% of his contract and your team loses the soft cap hit. If, however, both teams agree to mutually assume some portion of the contract as approved by the NHL, then there may be some residual soft cap hit for the losing team.
5. If a player’s contract expires and his team was under a hard and soft cap hit, his AAV disappears from the team’s soft cap. But if they are operating with a soft cap, they cannot sign another veteran player for the same cost and retain the soft cap hit. They must instead bring up a prospect to fill the position.
6. All prospects are signed to a three year entry level deal for no more than 1/23rd of the team’s hard cap per season at the time the deal is signed. And entry level deals do not count against the overall salary cap.
7. And it would be incumbant upon the NHL to continue to find ways to financially grow the NHL. Examples could even include expanding by at least two teams to a minimum, even 16 teams per Conference.
Remember here that at it’s average 7.1% financial growth per year since 2004/5, if the NHL salary cap dropped from this season’s projected $70.2M to $55M, the current, pre-Lockout, projected $70.2M cap would be surpassed in Year 5 of a new CBA. (The numbers would be $55M, $58.9M, $63.1M, $67.6M and $72.4M.) While teams may have to pay a diminishing average of about $6M each into the luxury tax fund each year, their revenues would grow by greater amounts than that off of the 7% increase in HRR split and potentially, annually expanding revenues.
The answer, my friends, isn’t blowing in the wind of some huge negotiating gap. The fix requires a fair reduction in player salaries, luxury taxes/increased revenue sharing between teams and continued growth of NHL revenue. And that fix is gradual over the next five or so years.
So let’s be smart about this. Players give in to 50% of HRR with owners’ guarantees nobody loses anything they have already contracted for. Owners, take the 7%, keep your team like you have it now, pay those luxury taxes and profit sharing as required for the betterment of the league, and unlock the damn doors before those profits take another setback.
Both of you, give us our game back. The Capamatics just don’t show us a huge gulf that warrants this stoppage.
Aggravation! Fandom blasphemy. Pure, unadulterated bulls@#! This NHL Lockout crap is hacking me – and I assume you – off. Nevertheless, we need to stay mindful of a few things:
So what can you do? Simple – draft a team that is ready to go right outta the chute with players who begin growing your stats categories right away. In that regard, your first round pick is crucial because you want to start building up a solid performance from the first puck drop. You also want to be mindful if you have an early 2nd round draft pick, which player is a hot starter off the bench so you can snag them to compliment your first round pick.
To help you along, here at OGA, we’re looking at your fantasy draft 1st Round possibilities as you prepare for your draft. This blog assumes you may be drafting with as many as 20 teams in your league. From that assumption, it looks at the top 20 scorers last season and how they performed in their first 10 games. Follow on blogs will do the same for the top 10 defensemen and top five goalies who may find their way into your 1st and/or 2nd round picks.
The Top 20
We did this very simply. We took the top 20 scorers from last year and only looked at their goals, assists, points and +/- in their first 10 games. Yes, the circumstances that produced their first 10 games’ stats may be vastly different this season. Some will be better, and some not so much. But it is as good a reference as any other to determine about where these players can be as the season kicks off.
One big note here. Players you know to have had surgeries and would have been starting the season late, such as a Gaborik (on this list), Kesler or Roy? That late date may wind up being the season opener anyway. And of course, maybe it won’t. But your odds after 15 September with a Lockout in effect are just as good to draft them as not.
Without further ado, here is how the top 20 scorers finished the season:
What can we gather from the top performers? Over the course of the year:
They averaged 80 games played
One 60-, one 50-, and two 40-goal scorers are in the Top 20 (So as your draft trails off to 30-goal scorers, don’t get too upset)
Two 60- and eight 50-assist scorers are in the Top 20 (So 40-to-50 assist scorers are what you are looking for in this category)
Only three players scored over 90 points (You need to weigh your options of trading up in draft order – if you can – or using a large percentage of your Auction Draft budget to secure one of these three players)
Only two players had more than a +20, and another five were better than a +15 (So above +10 is not that bad, here)
For comparative analysis, and understanding that players become more tired, injured and otherwise worn down as the season progresses, in each 10 games played the Top 20 averaged:
Eight games played
Three goals, five assists, and eight points scored
And were almost a +1
And for their per-game average over 80 games, these players were at:
.4 goals, .6 assists, 1.015 points scored
And a +.1
Over the long haul of the season, all of these players were worth keeping despite any temporary slumps they may have suffered because, as a whole, they made up for it.
But our question here is all about the strong start. It is about setting a tone in your fantasy league that you are a force to be reckoned with no matter when the season begins. So right out of the box, how were these Top 20 in their first 10 games last year?
The Opening 10
There is an interesting difference in reviewing Games 1 – 10 for these players. In that regard, we provide you this chart:
A few points about this chart. Firstly, in each category, a dark green box indicates the leading statistic for the group. A light green box indicates numbers above the opening 10-game average. A dark red box indicates the lowest statistic in that category. And on the far right, you will see our recommendations for what number in the draft to contemplate taking that player. (A ‘5’A or ‘5B’ means they are about equal in the fifth slot, so pick your favorite based on personal intangibles.)
In contrast to the season-long, 10-game average, you can see that these players display a bit of a difference as listed below:
+.03 in +/-
In other words, earlier on, they scored more, but their +/- was virtually a wash from the end-of-season 10-game average. It is form the scoring that you can expect an early bump in your fantasy league standings from this group.
By the time you get to the end of the season, the per-game averages between the opening 10 games to the finish are very similar. Here are the differences:
+0.056 goals per game
-0.054 assists per game
+0.003 points per game
-0.042 +/- per game
Why, none of those numbers are significantly different. Exactly. That is why drafting good players who remain healthy is the most sure thing you can count on throughout the season – don’t trade or drop them in a short slump or you will regret it!
Some Opening 10 Individuality
Toronto’s Phil Kessel was the hottest October 2011 commodity to fantasy teams by more than double the average number of goals scored. We noted the team lost when he did not register a point. And that would be a general rule as the season progressed, too.
Buffalo’s Jason Pominville and Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar joined Kessel as the only three players who either led or were above average in all four stats categories we analyzed here.
Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin slid from No.1 overall to No. 4 in this comparison, and Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos dropped from No.2 (with 60 goals) overall to No.10. Both of these players are going to be drafted in your first round, and by Yahoo!NHL’s draft tracking, they will go by the second pick. For the long haul, that is likely a good solution. Just know that they will not potentially start out as hot a commodity as a Kessel, Pominville and/or Kopitar might.
Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson in the only defenseman in this Top 20 group. While we will provide you analysis later on the Top 10 defensemen in their first 10 games, his nearly-a-point-per-game scoring average and +16 make him a likely pick no later than the end of Round 2. If you are the kind of fantasy manager that isn’t going to shoot for a goalie in Round 2 and you see Karlsson still up on the boards with none of these other Top 20 left, he is an intelligent snag.
Pittsburgh’s James Neal tends to draft anywhere from the Top 5 to just into the 2nd round depending on the character of your League. Yahoo!NHL ranks him at No.15, and he drops from No.7 in scoring at season’s end to our recommended 19th pick in your draft. If hot off the bench is your goal, his eight goals in 10 games to open the season was outstanding. You likely don’t appreciate his Top 20-worst single assist. But remember the team was without Crosby, and even lost Malkin for a game early on, so Neal was relied upon early to pop the twine. Any way you slice it, he is a good late 1st round acquisition.
And New Jersey’s Ilya Kovalchuk started slow, the reason he is our recommended tail-gunner pick. While he began with less than half the points Kessel did and a Top 20-worst –9, that +/- was his lowest final total, and he finished the season with one more point in five less games than the Toronto star. He ranks at No.13 in the Yahoo!NHL order. Our 20th pick recommendation for the opening 10 games means if we continued to carry out our analysis, other players would have potentially had a better opening stats pack. But as a bottom line, he is a good late 1st round pick.
So there you have an analysis of the Top 20 scorers from the 2011-12 season in the first 10 games they played last year. There is a difference to how fast they start off from the first puck drop, a fact we thought you should see in order to determine how you draft in your opening fantasy league round. But remember their overall, per-game averages are not significantly different from game 10 to season’s end.
Later, we will bring you the Top 10 defensemen and Top 5 goalies which should help you round out your 1st and 2nd draft rounds…
If you are thinking there will not be a full NHL season played this year, where is your marker? Where does it begin and what does it look like to determine how many teams make it into the 2013 Playoffs (under the other assumption that a Lockout is not for a full season)?
Here at On Goal Analysis (OGA) we say the target is the NHL Winter Classic as a face-saving measure for not starting the season on time. (Please forgive us – here is a whole turkey leg instead of just a slice. Just come back to the table and have a seat…) Seeing’s how NHL teams would have averaged right at 32 – to – 33 games by 1 January, viola! A 50 game schedule!
But where does that leave teams? Does 50 games mean something different in terms of where teams are? The answer is yes…
The Eastern Conference at Game 50
Let’s start by looking at where the East stands on average at Game 50 (G50):
From our chart, you can see since the Lockout, your top eight teams in Eastern standings are (in order) NYR, BOS, CAR (because a division winner has to be crowned in the Southeast), PHI, BUF, NJD, OTT and PIT. Said another way, average play to G50 says the playoff picture would likely be NYR vs PIT, BOS vs OTT, CAR vs NJD and PHI vs BUF. Montreal would be less than one OT/SOL out of the playoff picture, that slim margin between the No. 8 and 9 seeds that often occurs.
BUT, if you look at play over the last three years only (which indicates newer winning trends), your top eight teams in Playoff order are: PHI vs NJD; WSH vs TBL; BOS vs BUF; and PIT vs NYR. A difference of two new teams is not unusual from playoff year to playoff year, either. Florida missing the playoffs would be exactly by one OT/SOL.
One more interesting note here is that difference over the last three years. Proof that the NHL is adjusting comes from the difference between the average Top 8/Bottom 7′s overall and the last three years’ Top 8/Bottom 7′s. The difference in the Eastern Top 8 average G50 points is a +2.083 between historical and the last three years of play. While they went up that amount (one win plus), the difference in the Bottom 7 average went down -0.993 points. Why is it not simple math? Because a larger chunk of that difference is in the number of three-point games where a team pulls one standings point for an OT or SO loss. And in our book, that is not lazy – that is called parity.
And our estimate is that it will take approximately 52 – 58 points to earn a playoff spot, with indications of contenders coming in strongly by Game 30 – 33.
So how different does the Western Conference look?
The Western Conference at G50
Here is the Western Conference G50 chart:
Post-Lockout ’04, the averages indicate the following playoff matchups: DET vs ANA; SJS vs CHI; VAN vs CGY; and NSH vs DAL. The less-than-one-OT/SOL difference after the No. 8 seed in this case stretches down to COL and MIN. So Nos. 7 – 10 are basically decided by tie-breakers. This proves there is more parity here in the Western Conference than ‘Back East.’
There are the same two, team differences in Playoff matchups if you go to the Last 3 Year averages: VAN vs DAL; DET vs LAK; SJS vs COL; and CHI vs NSH. And again, the difference between LAK, DAL, PHX and STL in the Nos. 7 – 10 positions respectively is tie breakers.
Here, improvement in the Top 8 average between all Post- Lockout ’04 teams and just the last three seasons is about half of the Eastern difference at a +1.054. The Bottom 7′s are a difference of -0.6326 points, or less than an OT/SOL.
And our final estimate is that it will take approximately 54 – 60 points to earn a playoff spot, with indications of contenders coming in strongly by Game 32 – 35.
This post is fiction. But if it weren’t, and in light of the pending NHL Lockout, wouldn’t it be great?…
It’s called many things. Passive aggressive. Provocative. Showing leadership. Undermining. And always remember, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.
Any way you slice it, the NHLPA really did not like the way they were being portrayed by NHL management nor the stonewalling on a new CBA agreement. So they took a bold step two weeks into the 2012 Lockout.
On Wednesday, October 25th, NHLPA head Donald Fehr issued the following press statement: “…We have maintained from the opening salvo of this year’s CBA talks that the players want and are prepared to play… that a Lockout was not necessary. We have not been heard by NHL management. So now we are taking matters into our own hands. Beginning January the 1st we are pleased to announce that the NHLPA is brining the NHLPA League to professional hockey fans in North America. A 28-game regular season schedule will be played by mid-March, and a seven-game Playoff round will close out March 2013 so fans in NHL and other cities can see their favorite players skate in competition….”
Collective jaws in New York and team offices across the continent dropped. Indignation and expletives ensued. And fans rejoiced.
The NHLPA plan was simple in concept: Bring the best NHL players together to form what was, in effect, four, regional All Star teams and send them out to NHL and/or nearby cities to provide professional hockey fans competition to cheer about. Their January 1st, 2013 start date was necessitated by the time it would take to coordinate requirements to set up a mirror league to how the NHL operates under the NHLPA banner.
The NHLPA did not waste any time over the next few days beginning, or announcing, more detailed plans.
They started by hiring additional personnel. The four, regional teams’ coaching staffs were put together using a combination of former NHL coaches who had no financial or legal ties to NHL clubs and retired players. One of the initial coaching favorites was Nick Lidstrom, chosen as the head coach of the NHLPA Central team. Legal representatives were hired who negotiated ice hockey rinks in which to play, a short-term television deal and a combination Legal and Merchandising team who began the task of designing apparel with kick-ass team logos and colors that would provide no legal grounds for the NHL to sue, block or otherwise secure injunctions to block play.
In a marketing stroke of genius, The NHLPA sponsored the coaching staffs’ draft of regional teams on a premier cable channel 31 days before the start of the season. Drafted players were to report to ‘training camps’ one week later.
Simultaneously, legal teams negotiated deals with the ‘normal’ arenas for NHL teams in every city except Boston, Ottawa, Montreal, Washington, Philadelphia, Madison Square Garden, Toronto, Chicago, Colorado, Winnipeg, Vancouver and Los Angeles. In those cities, teams owned the arenas and with all 30 clubs in an uproar over this ‘stunt,’ they refused to let the teams play. While games in Ottawa and Montreal were moved to Quebec and Hamilton, other venues as close to the NHL teams’ home arena were found.
With all of the venues determined, a 30-game schedule was announced which called for two games in each NHL (or close proximity) arena. The NHLPA Northeast team (comprised of players from Boston, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Buffalo, the Rangers, the Islanders and New Jersey) was to play games against the NHLPA Southeast team (from Washington, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Carolina, Tampa Bay and Florida). And the NHLPA Central (from Detroit, Chicago, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Dallas, Minnesota and Winnipeg) were to take on the NHLPA West (Calgary, Edmonton, Phoenix, Vancouver, San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim). ‘Regular Season’ games were scheduled at no more than three games per week from 1 January through 9 March. The seven game Playoff series would be played in seven cities chosen by a few, specific criteria: which ones had the highest ‘Regular Season’ attendance on a fan-per-seat ratio; and play at least one game in each region on 11, 13, 16, 18, 20, 22 and 24 March. Playoff travel would go from East to West coast over the seven games. And the winner – based first on wins and second on an average by-game winning margin differential – would raise the NHLPA Trophy after Game 7.
Merchandizing flew off the shelves from the online NHLPA Store and outlets opened in each region. None of the money from these sales would be refunded to customers who now held a piece of history and backed the players who were supporting their fan interests. The cable TV contract for the Regional Team draft was non-refundable as well, going to pay for initial NHLPA League expenses and to shore up lower paid players’ salaries who were not receiving a check from their team. All other cable TV contracts were contingent on a game-to-game basis as contests were played and would defray some of the costs of team travel and provide a small player stipend for each game played.
Arena rental fees were to be paid on a game-by-game contractual basis from concessions and parking primarily, and the gate and television revenues as secondary sources. Out of a player-driven desire to show that they were out there on the ice to support the fans, the cost of tickets for games was no more than one–half of the normal cost for that venue. Besides the rest of the arena rental fees, team travel costs and a remaining share split evenly by every NHL player and coaching staffer came from this gate. When you think of the costs of transportation, lodging, other logistical support and arena rental fees and that the average ticket for 18,000 fans was $25, a $450,000 gate for each game split amongst all NHLers and NHLPA staff was not making anybody rich.
Predictably, NHL litigators marched right into court to block the NHLPA League from operating. While the legal drama unfolded in the courts through the month of November, it became apparent in two separate rulings on 21 and 28 November that blocking the formation of the NHLPA League was tantamount to a court-sanctioned business monopoly. The NHL was stymied at every lawful turn.
Fuming, NHL management watched the regional team draft unfold and monitored the social media explosion during and for three days after the event.
Donald Fehr ended that October 25th statement with the following words, “…No part of the NHLPA League is necessary, just as with this Lockout. But we are committed to do this for the fans unless an agreement can be reached before our first puck drop on January 1st….”
And in the end, the ‘unnecessary’ was made unnecessary. Seeing that the NHLPA was prepared to move out with a groundswell, on Tuesday, December 4th the NHL offered a financial olive branch to the NHLPA they could fly with. The Lockout was shutdown, and plans for a 50-game regular season ending by mid-April and a traditional Playoff period were announced by Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr along with the symbolic signing of a new, five-year CBA.
The NHL season would begin with training camps opening that same December 11th the NHLPA League was poised to pursue and plans for a Winter Classic game between Detroit and Toronto on Sunday, February 10th were announced. Fans were thrilled.
At no cost to the NHLPA based on revenues from televising the regional team draft, the NHLPA orchestrated a groundswell of support for their position. When pressed by the press as to whether or not the NHLPA would have carried out their announced plans, Donald Fehr replied, “…We are pleased that fans will find themselves entertained by professional hockey through all of its outlets beginning on January 1st. Make no mistake in what you print here – the puck was dropping for the fans and the sport on that day….”
As the press conference was breaking up, one last question was hollered out toward Fehr.
“…Mr. Fehr! Mr. Fehr! Do you consider yourself more of a freedom fighter or the financial terrorist you were portrayed to be by various NHL clubs in November?”
After a moment of thoughtful contemplation, a standing Donald Fehr leaned back down to the microphone and simply said, “…My favorite cigars are Cohibas…” before exiting the stage for his Toronto offices.