It is not an election, of course, so perhaps the NHL is just ignoring public opinion, confident as ever that any anger will pass. But if they are trying, they could perhaps do better. It wasn’t just Romney-esque gaffes, though if you define a gaffe as accidentally telling the truth, then Jimmy Devellano qualifies. The Detroit Red Wings executive and alternate governor managed to offend players in an interview with something called Island Sports News, in which he could perhaps have spoken more elegantly.
“It’s very complicated and way too much for the average Joe to understand, but having said that, I will tell you this: The owners can basically be viewed as the ranch, and the players, and me included, are the cattle,” said Devellano. “The owners own the ranch and allow the players to eat there.
That’s the way its always been and that’s the way it will be forever. And the owners simply aren’t going to let a union push them around. It’s not going to happen.” Listen, average Joe: it’s too much for you to comprehend that the really rich guys are the bosses, and they set the rules. Never happens anywhere else, especially for average Joes. Some players responded on Twitter by mooing, just as Ted Lindsay would have done.
Devellano then talked about the “unwritten rule” about not signing restricted free agents to offer sheets, and the fact that not every owner follows that unwritten rule might be the only thing that keeps it from being an admission of collusion. Which Don Fehr, having successfully fought collusion in baseball, just might sprinkle into his motivational speeches should the players waver.
The US$250,000 fine the Detroit Red Wings received will probably keep any other owner or executive from speaking their minds, but sometimes you can divine an owner’s intentions by his dealings with Edmonton City Council. As the league attempts to reduce the players’ share of revenues, Oilers owner Daryl Katz was trying to increase the share of public investment in an arena that is already slated to cost almost half a billion dollars.
“In our view, it is the team that acts as a subsidy for a city’s arena, which is effectively infrastructure, not the other way around,” Katz said in an interview with The Edmonton Journal. “For our part, on the other hand, we’re taking a lot of risk by committing to one of the NHL’s smallest markets for 35 years.” Well, study after study shows that sports arenas do not actually spur economic benefits, so no, the subsidy actually goes the other way. And while Forbes is no Bible when it comes to NHL finances, it puts Edmonton right in the middle of the league in 2011 revenues, and shows the team to be substantially profitable over the last five years. Oh, and city councillor Tony Catarina told the Journal, “They don’t want to pay taxes. They want help now in operating the arena. They want a guaranteed ($6-million per year) subsidy. They want the city to be their tenant in a major office building. They want the casino licence.” Helpfully, the NHL has told Edmonton city council that “absent a lease, and with no state-of-the-art arena either being constructed or about to be, the Oilers would be a candidate for relocation,” according to Journal columnist John MacKinnon. The Oilers official Twitter account then retweeted a link to that column, which as social media strategy goes is a hell of a way to connect with your fans. Nice little hockey team you got here. Shame if anything were to happen to it.