Sunday, March 07, 2010


Just one week ago 29 million Canadians, millions of people world wide, and about 300 Americans watched one of the most exciting hockey games ever played.

Of course I am talking about the Vancouver 2010 Gold Medal final where Sidney Crosby scored the overtime winner for Canada.

I am clearly making a joke about the size of the US television audience. By all accounts it was a widely enjoyed game, and a ratings bonanza for NBC. Far more people in the USA watched that game then any NHL game ever played in longer then anyone can remember.

Now, only a week later we have Gary Bettman musing aloud that NHL players may no longer compete in future Olympic games unless the IOC is willing to apparently make some concessions.

Bettman (and the NHL owners) have some valid points, but mostly it just seems like sour grapes. One of the better ones is that they do have millions of dollars in player salaries tied up in this tournament and their insurance policies would not cover injuries sustained by the players. Imagine losing your best player to a freak accident during an Olympic game. There is a very real risk to the team bottom line.

A few folks have tossed around that the IOC made $30 million in ticket sales at the Vancouver Olympics and the NHL wants a cut of that pie. Frankly this is a bogus argument. Sure the Vancouver Olympic Committee made plenty of money selling these tickets, every game was a sell out. Yet you wait until the final bill for this party comes due. I suspect we will be hundreds of millions in the red when all is said and done.

Now it would be nice if the NHL could use some of the positive publicity that the Olympic hockey generated in order to find an audience for their Southern US franchises. The problem is the IOC owns the rights to everything. How many times have you seen Crosby's winning goal replayed since last Sunday? Not many... because the IOC wants a cut every time it gets played. YouTube videos of the goal are taken down as quickly as they come up. It is even getting difficult to find the game online, so unless you feel like shelling out big $$$ for the commemorative boxed set I suggest you grab it now.

Then last night it came to me. Bettman can complain it is about money, or the risk to the players, or the schedule chaos caused by an Olympic tournament. The real reason is the competition. You see last night I was treated to a rather uninteresting (and typical) game on Hockey Night in Canada. It was Toronto vs. Ottawa and it was full of bad plays, missed passes, clumsy offense and dirty hits. It just simply was not a good game, despite Toronto pulling out the win via shootout. The quality of play was simply not there and stood in sharp contrast with those Olympic games fresh in my memory.

That is the real reason why Bettman wants to turn the 2014 Olympics into a glorified World Junior tournament. He knows that when you compare the current state of the NHL against what we saw in Vancouver, the product he puts on the ice comes up short. Which is a shame, because if we could make NHL games as exciting as those Olympic matches then you would see far larger television audiences for the NHL in the USA, which we all know is something Bettman would sell his soul for.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hmm that's amazing but honestly i have a hard time understanding it... wonder what others have to say..