Welcome to a new feature called What If? Wednesday here at SenShot. Each week I will pose a question related to the League or the Senators in general and try to answer it. This week I ask what would happen if the NHL contracted to fewer than the current 30 franchises?
First off, this question is prompted when the topic of revenue sharing is brought up. I am firmly in the corner of those who feel that the league as a whole is an entity with 30 individual franchises. As such, the richer franchises should help the poorer franchises survive, to the point where they can succeed on their own. This is not to say that the 30 franchises must remain in the places they are now, but they must be given the chance to succeed.
Secondly, sometimes you get the “old school” argument that the league with 30 teams is watered down and the talent is too spread out these days. That argument is complete and utter hogwash. Even back to the 21 team era of the 80’s, there were virtually no European players and the development of US hockey was still in its infancy. The level of training, talent and skill available to teams today is far superior to what was the standard 20 years ago, that a 4th line player from the 80’s would be a mediocre AHL player today. Look at ESPN classic games from that era and see the level of the game and has a much better the current crop of players is talent-wise. I am not saying that player’s from eras past, given the same training and coaching, would remain inferior, but taking the same player from that era and popping them into today’s game would simply be overwhelming.
Thirdly, imagine how much more each individual team’s payroll would be with fewer teams. The players losing their jobs would be 4th liners, and the redistribution of the talented higher earning players would be to a smaller group, raising the average salary substantially. Combine that with the decrease in revenue league-wide (sponsors pay based partly on the number of top TV markets the league has a presence in) would be doubly detrimental for the league.
I’m not suggesting that the league is in the best 30 markets available. What I am suggesting is that 30 markets is integral to the overall success of the league, even if they few teams that Are truly losing money need to be propped up by those raking it in. For those rich teams to have the ability to make all that money, there needs to be a second team on the ice. Not every game can features “sexy” opponent, but each team has at least one reason to go see them when they come to town.
So maybe some of the Southern US teams aren’t having the same success revenue-wise as they would in Quebec City or the GTA, however the variety of markets is attractive to sponsors and TV, so without them the overall revenue pie would be smaller if the league were to contract.
The league as a whole is profitable, it’s just that the profits are not shared widely enough to give the Floridas and Phoenixes of the world a fighting chance off the ice.
Those who suggest that contracting the league would solve any problems are simply short-sighted.