Senators News: November 19th

-Not much in the way of Sens or hockey news today, although Stu Hackel reminds us that one of the reasons Gary Bettman has such strong control over ownership is the requirement for a 75% vote among them to reject any of his recommendations.

Ian McLaren writes about Stefan Noesen, Matt Puempel, and Cody Ceci, although there’s nothing new in the article.

-There was a little confusion about my comments on Marc Spector’s article yesterday, with the reaction stemming (I think) from the inflammatory prose I used–a little tactless of me, but lazy journalism tends to set me off.  The point I was making about Spector was his slipshod way of forming his argument.  He’s writing an opinion piece and in order to inform his readers and justify his views he needs to make a solid argument.  A good argument is based on fact and deductive reasoning and there is precious little of either in the article.  Given the aforementioned confusion, let’s delve fully into what those problems are.  So let’s take a walk in the world of Spector:

Led by some Gary Bettman strategies that never quite panned out, the National Hockey League owners have painted themselves into a perilous corner.

So here’s the opening statement that should guide us (the readers) into his argument: Bettman’s made mistakes (a safe assumption–we all do), and now ownership is painted into a corner.

Decisions like that [making the 1994 CBA agreement last ten years] are what led to the players raking in 75 per cent of league revenues. They resulted in salary escalation that would pay hockey players like Major League Baseball players, without the underlying economy to justify it.

We run into that Levitt Report number (link above) without citation, explanation, or exploration, along with a broad statement saying the NHL couldn’t afford the escalating salaries (another statement without exploration–although fans are likely to accept it on face value).

Yes, the NHL has grown economically to a $3.3 billion business under Bettman. But in doing so, its labour situation has been botched to the point that today’s poisonous relationship between player and owner is irreparable.

So now the NHL is a booming business (not sure how that ties in with economic troubles) and the relationship between parties is irreparable.  The latter is pure hyperbole–irreparable means they could never have a functional relationship (also implying they have had one).  I don’t think Spector means what he says here, instead I assume he’s suggesting the season might be lost, but that’s not made clear.  I don’t see any reasoning provided to prove that animosity (if it exists) means that negotiations fail in pro sports.  Has that ever happened?  How do we know?  Isn’t it all about the money?

The players are equally at fault. They and their agents — in orchestration with the NHLPA — never missed a chance to sign a ridiculous deal, to prey on some GM whose job was on the line if he didn’t improve his roster to win some games, to drive salaries through the roof.

Here Spector implies an agent is not supposed to get the person he represents the best deal.  Similarly, a GM has the power to do things his owner won’t approve of and at the same time is helpless in the face of the agents.  How do we know this is the case?  Spector doesn’t provide any reasons.  I don’t buy into the idea that GM’s get to sign deals that aren’t approved by ownership, which means its ownership agreeing to pay those contracts which they (presumably) think are worthwhile investments.  Following the logic, that would imply owners are at the mercy of agents, but that still leaves us without any evidence or reasoning to back it up.

Today, players are paying the costs for 25 years of doing what was good for themselves, yet not good for the game as a whole. They drove the NHL’s economy into the ground.

Okay, remember that economic boom mentioned earlier?  Apparently you need to forget that: players have driven the NHL’s economy into the ground.  We’ve also learned that the only thing that effects the league is player salary–attendance, TV deals, trends in national economies, etc are all completely irrelevant (how or why that’s the case isn’t explored).

as players lapped up money their owners couldn’t afford to spend

Do we know owners couldn’t afford it?  I mean, have owners gone bankrupt from their hockey operations alone?

Simply placing franchises in football states like Texas, Florida, Tennessee and North Carolina doesn’t get you football money, a misguided fourth-down gamble that will surely be Commissioner Bettman’s legacy.

This is a common sentiment (hockey doesn’t work in the south), but other than Atlanta no franchises have moved and none have folded, so can we really say all those markets don’t work?  How do we define a functional franchise?  It’s not made clear.

Worse yet, the only way to make most of those markets tenable is to revenue share.

Why is revenue sharing bad?  And if it is, if it’s a dog-eat-dog world, then why is there so much concern over struggling teams–shouldn’t a good capitalist let them fail?

It’s not like the days of the Canadian Assistance Plan, when the league propped up teams in Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton and Ottawa as the Canadian dollar plunged to 65 cents.

Here Spector is on the verge of an excellent point, but he doesn’t make it.  Why were Canadian teams struggling?  The article would suggest player salary, but here we see the principal cause: the value of the Canadian dollar.  Doesn’t that throw a wrench into the idea that salary is the only driver of economic problems in the league?  Spector doesn’t explore the issue.

The core of Spector’s sentiments rest on economic arguments, about which there are a lot of interesting (and often contradictory) statements.  These tricky issues aren’t fully explored–we never find out what corner Spector thinks the owners are painted into during the current negotiations (we have to infer it’s the animosity he talks about).  I could write more about this, but I think that’s enough on the article.

This article is written by Peter Levi (@eyeonthesens)



  1. […] the sake of fans of Marc Spector who I pilloried not long ago, here’s a largely sensible piece on Brian Burke’s tenure as […]

  2. […] C. McLaren writes about Jakob Silfverberg, but like his previous articles there’s nothing new here (you can sum it up with “he’s doing well and […]

  3. […] upon one of my favourite pet peeves: lazy […]

  4. […] a very odd player to pick on.  When it comes to Spector, I always have to reference his bumbling lockout piece.  Sometimes when I come across these things I have to assume the journalist just wants more hits […]

  5. […] to do so -The 6th Sens Scott got very agitated with me back in November when I took Marc Spector to task for a sloppy opinion piece on the lockout; all three of us (five including the NHL and NHLPA) […]

  6. […] of journalists covering the NHL: most of what he writes is generic and banal, sprinkled with the utterly absurd and, occasionally, mildly sensible.  Today is a trip into loony land as he praises the […]

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