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Monthly Archives: October 2007
Tom Benjamin’s NHL Weblog: Never the Fan’s Fault:
Bunk. Whatever the Leaf problems – and I don’t think they are as bad as the Toronto media makes out – none of them can be laid at the feet of the fan. The fan can’t do anything about the fact that corporations will buy all the tickets win or lose, and the fan can’t force the league to put another team in southern Ontario.
Furthermore, while the Leafs may make a ton of money with a mediocre team, they would make much more with a Stanley Cup Champion. Even if that was not the case, the hockey people hired want to win just as much as the hockey people in every other city. Perhaps more, simply because the pressure in that market is so unrelenting. Finally, I don’t think anyone can accuse the Leafs of being unwilling to invest. If anything they have been too willing to spend money over the years. They haven’t necessarily spent wisely, but they have spent.
I almost want to agree with Tom here, but there are a couple of problems with his assumptions here.
First problem: corporations may well buy most of the seats, but someone inside that corporation is making the decision to buy them and is allocating the money to pay for them. And that person is very likely a FAN, or they would be spending the money somewhere else. Corporate spending starts with a fan who decides to do the spending, because it’s a lot more fun to get their company to pay for the tickets than paying for them directly.
Second problem: there have been studies in baseball (I’ll try to find references, I don’t have them handy) that show that the MOST PROFITABLE teams tend to be teams with really strong fan bases who play .500ish baseball but never spend the money to go out and Win The Big One. Two words: Chicago Cubs.
And the Chicago Cubs are a great analogy for the Leafs, because of the real core of the second problem with what Tom says: it’s true that the hockey people hired want desperately to win — but the people that hire them want to make money. In Chicago, it’s the Tribune, in Toronto, it’s the Teacher’s Pension plan. And if you look at both organizations, the “Hockey people” and “baseball people” in management tend to turn over fairly frequently, because they come in thinking they can fix the organization, and they quickly learn that their bosses don’t really want them to, because it’d cost money….
I think you’re seeing similar problems with Sather in Edmonton — After years of buying in expensive free agents who didn’t perform well enough, he finally started to restructure the team towards home-built youth and good drafting, and you saw that team really improve. And this year? Way overpaid for some free agents and they’re struggling again. Back to the Good Old (or Bad Old) Rangers. Not because Sather went senile again, but, I think, because his uber-bosses told him they wanted “names” to market around, and that was more important than actually winning hockey games. New York is, after all, a Marquee city, and when you have a Marquee, you need Marquee names.
So I wouldn’t be suprised if Sather left New York fairly soon. He tried to fix the team, and then something made him go off and start buying expensive free agents again. I don’t think that was Sather’s idea, either, although he won’t say so.
â€œThereâ€™s always talk about a lack of respect [among NHL players],â€ Ference added, â€œbut the biggest question is if guys understand how much trust is involved in playing hockey â€“ trust between you and your opponent.
If you ask me, the “Players Need to Take Responsibility” mantra is bogus. The history of the league is full of players who’s career was based on not having respect for other players. Stop to think that of the old-timers who talk about “respect” and the “good old days” you have Bobby Clarke, the guy who once broke an opponent’s ankle on purpose, and Phil Esposito, who when he’s not talking about players needing to respect each other on XM radio, is telling stories of fondly remembered players from the old days who’s specialties included enthusiastic stickwork (especially to opponent’s groin area or head) and guys who used their elbows as weapons of mass destruction.
Now, having said that, respect between players is an important aspect of the game, but the reality is, there have always been a subset of players who’s job is was to “stir it up”, or disrupt the game — or simply didn’t care what happened to someone on the other team.
After all, esposito loves to talk about the Good Old Days when players on different teams didn’t talk to each other — and some who carry the grudge forward to today. And teams that has to take turns in the dining cars on the trains to avoid the inevitable fights.
When was the last time you heard about two NHL players fighting outside of a game environment, anyway? Yet for some reason, the old days had a higher level of respect than today does. Hmm. Selective memory, perhaps? Perhaps.
the problem isn’t respect, although that’s the word people are using. The problem is that there are (and always have been) players who’s job depended on them being willing to stretch (or ignore) the rules — and beyond that, we have to remember that the teams are judged based on winning, and players are giving jobs based on their willingness and ability to make teams win, and frankly a player that isn’t willing to do “whatever is necessary” to win is a player looking for a job. A player that puts “respect” above helping his team win is likely an ex-player.
That’s why the league gives out the Lady Byng with an embarassed smile every year. Because Sportsmanship is a nice concept, but winning games is what counts. And Sportsmanship often gets in the way of winning.
Now, I’m all for the NHLPA getting involved with teaching players to be more respectful (or more correctly, more AWARE) of the implications of the kinds of dirty hits going on — but until that kind of play hurts a team’s ability to win, this is all nudge-wink land. Players will talk the talk, teams will talk the talk, the league will talk the talk, and when the whistle blows and the game starts, players of marginal talent will go out and push the envelope (and yes, I’m talking about you, Jordin Tootoo) and if someone gets hurt, well, that’s someone else’s problem, because the alternative is Tootoo not having a job in the NHL (and an NHL paycheck).
So you can talk about players learning to respect each other — maybe Bobby Clarke can give a few lectures here — but until the league structures the rules and penalties so that it’s in the team’s best interest to “encourage” it’s players to cut it out, it’s simple: they won’t.
For the record: the Downie suspension is a great start. The league needs to keep it up. I’d also like to see the league suspend that roster spot, too. That would DEFINITELY get the team’s interest in a way simply suspending the player won’t. Once you do that, you can bet Coaches will get involved in “teaching respect” and GMs will be more careful to sign “respectful” players. Until then — it’s all talk, because if it helps your team win, then that’s what REALLY matters.
(and that’s frankly how it SHOULD be; which is why the rules and enforcement need to be structured so that the best way to win is to win with respect. If it’s not within the rules, it ain’t gonna happen)
In short, when a hockey player expresses a personal opinion that offends anybody at all, thereâ€™s an attitude that it should be kept behind closed doors; that heâ€™s undermining the team somehow.
That’s because — well — it does. Or at least, can.
This subject really deserves a longer, deeper discussion, but I tend to think that people who don’t “get” this sort of thing didn’t spend much time in a locker room in a competitive league.
For a team to function to its potential, the members of that team have to buy into the idea of “what’s best for the team”. Think about some of the catch phrases you hear out of athletes and coaches all of the time: “I have my role”, “we have to follow the system”, “do what’s best for the team” etc.
That’s not just cliche (but it IS cliche, as well!) — it’s what makes a team work. Players have to commit to the best interests of the team OVER their own personal best interest. As a simple example, do you honestly think any sane player PREFERs laying down and blocking shots when they could be scoring goals? You really think fighters prefer playing six minutes a night and fighting?
So when a player then “breaks rank” (notice the military symbolism here — the dynamics of a sporting team and a military organization are quite similar here; both are structured so encourage individuals to bond with their team and work to the team’s ultimate benefit over personal benefit, on the assumption that the individuals gain benefit from the success of the team, for some larger good), what message is that sending? That this player isn’t part of the team, is above the team, hasn’t committed to the team.
Well, heck, that does kinda sound like Kovalev his entire career, no? Oh, never mind.
But speaking out can cause problems. If you think about it, even a noted loose cannon like Brett Hull tended to include himself is in commentary on the team (“we suck! Oh god, do we suck!”), but more so, he tended to speak at league issues and maintain the players vs. teams dynamic. And yes, Hull did get himself in deep, too, and not all of the teams he was on functioned well as a team. the question that would need to be asked was whether his public outbursts were because the team wasn’t committed to itself, or whether it caused that, and what might have been said privately before he chose to take it public.
When a player joins a team, he gives up part of his individual by committing it to the team. this is no different than what we do when we join a company and go to work for them, or share a life with a partner and family. There are things that you do within that group that you don’t splash over the pages of a newspaper or a blog. Ditto a hockey team. Or a football team. Or any team.
Kovalev shot his lip here, and screwed up. What he really did, and why he’s being criticized by his team, is show he’s not really committed to the team. This IS the kind of thing that gets hashed out in the locker room, not blabbed to a reporter — unless it’s one of the “spokesman” members doing so for a purpose, and Kovalev is definitely not someone the team has defined as “speaking for the team”.
But then, is anyone surprised that Kovalev isn’t on the same page as his teammates? Has he ever been?
But this isn’t about being a “puppet to the man” and toeing the league’s happy-happy line. It’s about committing to the team and your teammates. A functioning team is in many ways its own individual with its own personality, and members OF that team have to give up some of their own individuality to make the team function. And when they don’t, you have a room of individuals, not a team, and it’s a rare team that succeeds without that commitment.
Thanks again to Richard Lawson at the Nashville Post, we have word that Jim Balsillie is still working hard to purchase the Nashville Predators, this time by sending a note to the Nashville Sports Authority that claims that if he owned the team, “the existing arena operating agreements will require no changes whatsoever unless they benefit the Authority and the residents of Nashville.”
Is this an effort to undermine the current Freeman/Nashville negotiations, or indeed a genuine change of heart on Balsillie’s part? His representative also wrote in that note,
Okay, anyone who thinks the Balsillie offer is on the up and up, please raise your hand. I have a bridge for sale. Cheap. One owner. Only drove it to church on sunday.
This offer is perfect for Balsillie’s long-term goal of getting this team to Hamilton. It’s designed to screw up the local ownership’s push for fixes to the deal by giving the local politicos an easy out for avoiding looking like they’re subsidizing the team to people who don’t want to invest in it. After all, Balsillie will take it without changes or subsidies.
Of course he will. it leaves him with a lease trivially easy to break in a year or so, after the “white knight” comes to the realization it’s not going to work. His protestations to try to make it work notwithstanding, he doesn’t have to screw this stuff up to make the lease breakable, he can do it merely by doing a good faith effort, suck up the losses for a couple of years, and then break the lease.
Given this second round in is something like $25m less in the price for the franchise? that’s a nice chunk of change he can invest in letting the team lose money, no? And in the end, the money he pputs in is about the same, but he has a free pass out of town.
His offer to bring in local owners? Sure — they’re just as easy to buy out again later. It’s nice eye candy, but it doesn’t mean anything.
And that assumes a few things.
First, it assumes that once he gets them to nuke the deal with the locals, he doesn’t come in and start negotiating. And what leverage do you have once the other owners get told to stuff it and leave?
Second, it presumes he’s actually going to follow through on his offers. What if he doesn’t? Or if he does them badly?
Third, it assumes the NHL will approve him as an owner. Given you can pretty much bet that Balsillie as an owner will someday lead to a lawsuit over moving the team to Hamilton, I think it’s far from given the NHL will let him join the club at this point.
We aren’t even talking about whether moving a team to Hamilton is good for the league. that’s an entirely different argument…
If Nashville falls for this gambit by Balsillie, they WILL lose the Predators. Maybe not for a couple of years, but they will. And they’ll deserve to. Now, with the other ownership group, will the Predators be saved? Maybe. Maybe not. But with Balsillie in the house, you KNOW you have no chance.
There are two parts to most discussions about this lens: its fast aperture and the fact that it is a prime lens. Now, don’t get me wrong, I adore my prime lens kit of the 50mm f/1.8, the 85mm f/1.8 and the 100mm f/2.8 Macro. I’m not anti-prime lens in any way at all. That’s not the point. The point I want to explore is why people believe and assert that a prime lens will make you a “better” photographer, for some value of “better”.
Firstly, lets define “better” What does it mean to become a better photographer? I’ll develop a positive definition in a moment, but first think about what the difference between the good photographer and the great photographer is not: in the age of autofocus, TTL metering and the various common exposure modes, the difference is not found in a photographer’s deep understanding of which setting to use.
What sets great photography apart from good photography is not the technical at all, it is nothing more or less than the impact of the photograph on the viewer. Technical mastery of the camera merely separates the acceptable from the unacceptable, and could even be argued to be orthogonal to the impact of the photograph.
That said, why advocate prime lenses for beginning photographers?
Where I differ from some photographic commentators is the noble notion that whatever was good enough for Robert Capa or Cartier-Bresson should be good enough for you and I. I strongly disagree with any claim along the line that prime lenses are somehow a purer expression of photography than zoom lenses. Yes, we all love elegant equipment and, heaven knows, the Leica M8 is burning a hole in my heart right now. However, the existence of historically important photographs taken with prime lenses only serves to disprove the counter-claim that zoom lenses are a necessary precondition to good photographs. It doesn’t prove anything much about the virtues of prime lenses.
My own opinion is that learning to handle an ultra-wide-angle lens in the 10-25mm range is an even better photographic education than a prime lens, but that’s another post for another time.
I personally believe that prime lenses are still advocated because it used to be the quality difference was significant. Today’s modern zooms — not so.
But it’s traditional. You still see people who argue that UV filters degrade image quality, too, although I’ve yet to see evidence of someone who has been given a dozen photos taken half with and half without filters — and been able to flag the ones with degraded quality. But you still hear this old wive’s tale, also. (I have, of course, seen a number of attempts for people to do this fail miserably — and yes, you need to use quality filters. As always…)
I think the prime lens is even less interesting in a digital environment where your post-shoot workflow probably involves some kind of crop anyway. I think it’s important that photographers develop the eye that lets them see what makes a photograph interesting via the viewfinder, for the same reason photographers need to get technique down and stop trying to fix bad exposure, soft focus or bad contrast in post-processing; you can improve a photo and make it the best photo you can, but you can’t save a bad photo, even with photoshop — and that goes for framing as much as exposure.
I own one prime lens today — 300mm F4 IS, which I usually shoot with a tele on a tripod because I’m just not going to get that 800MM F5.6 any time soon (or the 500MM or 600MM lenses, either). My workhorse is still the 100-400 F5.6IS, and my wide angle is also a zoom, because I prefer to do my framing on camera. There are a couple of situations I’d consider another prime: a good, kick-ass, fast and clean macro lens, a similar super-wide (although I’ll probably think long and hard about a super-wide zoom, if I find one I like). Especially when you move into fish-eye, I tend to think you’ll want to stay with a prime.
the last place: certain specialty shooting. For instance, if I was shooting hockey seriously, I’d want to do it with two lenses: my 100-400 on one body, and a 200mm F2.8 class prime on a second.
I agree with Frasier, by the way — you want to force someone to become a better photographer? Give them a 15mm super-wide and send them off to take photos. It is so easy to back fricking bad photos with the thing, and it forces you to think your way through how to generate interest in a scene. I still find that I throw out too many of my wide angle shots on review as “freaking boring”; it’s something I need to work on…
Tim Oâ€™Reilly has a great post up on Oâ€™Reilly Radar, in which he talks about what might be called (although he doesnâ€™t use the term) the â€œstupidity of crowds.â€ Using the meltdown in quantitative hedge funds, Facebook apps and Techmeme.com as examples, he talks about how too many people chasing the same idea causes a decline in the value of that idea. As he puts it:
â€œWhen a group of seemingly independent actors are making decisions based on the same limited pool of information, they become more highly correlated, and thus â€œstupider.â€
Or as I like to put it –
The first thing an echo chamber does is convince itself it’s not an echo chamber
The group attracts people with the same attitudes and opinions. At some point, diversity is squeezed out because opinions that don’t fit the “common mindset” get piled on and buried — just ask anyone who’s tried to comment on slashdot that microsoft is not evil incarnate, or that Linux isn’t perfect — and people learn fast to fit in or get bitchslapped.
And then once everyone “fits in”, they convince themselves that because everyone around them thinks like this, everyone obviously thinks like this. Which is false, but the group looks around and only sees nodding heads, and therefore discounts that they might be wrong. Ultimate Yes Men (soon coming to Xbox 360).
Classic cases of this are the iPhone and the Apple TV. Both are products that are built for consumers, and while they have strong geek attraction, they aren’t built and designed for geeks. Geeks complain about things these products don’t do. Apple ignores them. Geeks try to spin them into failures because they don’t cater to geeks. the product sells zillions of units anyway. The geeks brains hurt.
(for instance, best as I can find, the new generation Tivo sold 30,000 units in the first few months. Apple TV? 250,000 units. Yet you look around the geek echo chamber, and they declare the Apple TV a failed product, while drooling over Tivos. Of course, if you read Sean Avery’s NY Times article this week, you’ll see he calls out his Apple TV as a toy he loves. It’s a great product. Just not a geek product. But since all products ought to be geek products — that makes it a failure inside the geek echo chamber.
Ditto the iPhone and openness and ddevelopment kits and applications and hacking and etc. Piper Jaffray estimated that 10% of iPhones are being unlocked. I think that’s too high, because they seemed to do their survey in New York (where I’d expect the overseas unlockers would flock, because of easy access) and then extrapolated those numbers country wide. In reality, I’d expect unlocking to be more like 5% than 10%, but that’s just me.
Still not a small number: 5% of a million iPhones is 50,000 iPhones; a great little cottage industry, but it’s still ONLY 5%. And for all of the geeks who want the iPhone to fail because it doesn’t do all the things THEY want, and obviously, everyone wants those things.
Except, of course, Apple’s selling hundreds of thousands of iPhones. Why? because if you get outside the geek echo chamber, most people don’t CARE about what the geeks care about. They want the iPhone.
And that’s something I see among the geek echo chamber these days: an undercurrent of “it’s time for Apple to go sour”; not because Apple shows any signs of doing so, except within the mind of the echo chamber, but because Apple insists on catering to the consumer instead of the geek, and geeks don’t like the products without all those geeky-friendly features — and yet those products succeed very well despite the geeks declaring them lame. And since that doesn’t fit what the geeks have convinced themselves to be true, it causes their brains to hurt. Or they simply edit reality to fit the echo chamber reality (“apple TV is a failure, having sold 7X our joyous Tivo”).
Reality is, the geekdom and the geek echo chamber is a niche market. But try telling the geeks that… And when evidence shows up to prove it — they just edit their reality around the evidence to protect the safety of the echo chamber…
“Last night was the best I felt yet,” Roenick said after Friday’s practice of his 9:47 on the ice against Edmonton. “My body’s actually really good. The hands are what have to come. It’s controlling the puck and making moves and holding onto it.”
Roenick took note of the fact he was on a line with two of the speedier Sharks.
“It’s kind of ironic how the oldest guy is on the fastest line. I don’t know where they get those jet-pack skates yet. I haven’t found them. I’ve just the old-time skates that weigh three pounds each.”
Roenick sure seems to have come into camp with the right work ethic and attitude. He’s definitely winning me over, not just because he’s played pretty well (unlike the game I saw in pre-season), but because he’s handling it with, well, the classic and good side of Roenick. After scoring his two goals, he was interviewed on TV by Drew, who more or less asked “two goals? What about that?”
To which Roenick replied “Blind squirrels and acorns”.
So far, the sharks actually look pretty good, and Roenick may make it tough to get Setoguchi back in the lineup when healthy. I didn’t expect that. I’m not going to complain.
One thing I’m enjoying — Thornton said he was going to shoot more this season, and he is. His goal last night is a classic of this; you could see the Canucks settle back and protect the pass a bit, leaving him a lane to shoot, assuming he was going to dish it off. He lasered it off the post an in; Luongo had no chance (he really had no chance on all three goals, IMHO). Teams are going to have to figure this one out and stop cheating on the pass — and when they do, expect Cheechoo’s goal numbers to take off, also.
I’m not exactly sure how you can defend someone who can shoot that accurately if you give him a little time, and pass as well as he does if you try to get in his face and pressure. I’m going to enjoy watching teams try.
OH, and sorry, Alanah. Really.
Update: I was sent email by someone who says that this was, in fact, discussed and agreed to by the board of governers and in her words, “passed almost unanimously”; which may, if true, imply something like “passed except for MSG”. Assuming this info is correct, and I believe it is, then MSG is in the wrong here by choosing to litigate to override the majority decision. It also implies:
1) Larry Brooks is wrong, which is, of course, unprecedented. Probably because he got his information from MSG sources and didn’t verify it. Probably because it fits his biases anyway…
2) I’m an idiot for using Larry Brooks as a source, especially without verifying the information with Al Strachan.
I”m going to let this simmer a bit and think through the implications, probably write a new piece later. But Im’ going to leave this one alone, with this update, rather than rewrite it, since I think it has a lot of interesting info in it as is.
n fact, Brunt may have published a primer on Tuesday for the Commissioner to study, featuring a couple of troubling developments for the league bureaucracy to examine and sort out. Some percolating issues, which try as he might, don’t appear to be on the verge of going away any time shortly.
In his Globe and Mail column on Tuesday, Brunt examined the state of the league as they prepare to drop the puck on another chase for Lord Stanley’s mug. His findings show that the league is doing quite well in Canada, where the suddenly skyrocketing loonie is making for a cash flow bonus that provides for more dollars in the Canadian franchise treasuries, while the southern teams begin to feel the pain.
Included in his column on Tuesday were a couple of interesting brush fires that have flared up this week for the league to address. The on again/off again saga of the Nashville Predators sale seems to have moved into the death throes again this week. As the new council in the Nashville area, has not smiled beneficially on some of the “changes” that the Preds would like to make to such things a lease arrangements and other financial subsidies that the city is underwriting to keep the Preds part of the Nashville scene.
Brunt also examined the washing of some dirty laundry heading into opening night, examining a Larry Brooks story for the New York Post, which reported that Madison Square Garden chief executive officer James Dolan has been busy blasting the league office for incompetent handling of the NHL brand. Dolan who seems to enjoy controversial roles these days, took time out from the legal woes that have befallen MSG to drop a little diversionary bomb at the doorstep of Gary Bettman.
Dolan believes the Rangers do a far better job selling their product in all of its permutations than the league ever could. Said Doolan, “we believe that the league continues to squander opportunities to improve our business and solidify and grow our fan base.” He pulled out some interesting numbers to back his case, recounting how some 93 per cent of the NHL overall revenue (up from 91 per cent before the lockout) is generated by the teams, with only 7 per cent generated by the league.
In effect, he’s probably wondering what the NHL office is doing to not only justify its existence to improve the game on a wider agenda.
(Continued from part 1….)
The MSG lawsuit is fascinating me. The one question I had I couldn’t find an answer to until Larry Brooks documented was this: did the Board of Governors approve this centralization of the web sites? Or did Bettman initiate this on his own? If it was the former, then the MSG lawsuit is groundless — but it turns out, from reading what Brooks said, that Bettman was given a charter by BoG to work on extending league revenues, this seems to be something added to the plan without formal approval (to quote brooks: ” Slap Shots also has been told that while Bettman had been granted previous authority by the Board to proceed with the league’s business plan, the commissioner has proceeded to implement and expand the plan without the necessary vote that would allow him to do so. “).
I think MSG has a point. A big one.
Excuse me while I set the wayback machine to, well, way back. About 1994. Laurie and I had a meeting with some people folks from the Sharks to show them a neat new technology — something called a browser and a web site. We felt that as the team “in silicon valley” one way to get involved with and connect with the region was to be an innovator in technology. They were very interested. And yes, we were hoping we could get involved and help them innovate. As it turned out, they did get going, but in a different part of the organization, and with a different group working for them. In retrospect, that was great for us (our year doing the web geeking for the IHL SF Spiders, and working with the folks who did the same for the Ice Dogs, cured me), but at the time, we weren’t quite so sanguine. And to be honest — I don’t think the Sharks have ever innovated here, or taken a leadership role in the league. Other teams, especially the Capitals, have done more, sooner. THAT bothers me, because I think it’s an opportunity lost for the Sharks, not just in growing into the regional community and business economy, but it was an opportunity for the Sharks to build influence and help set agendas inside the league and board of governors, and I think they missed it. They ended up being followers, not leaders here. (memo to San Jose Sharks web staff: that freaking LANDING PAGE is so 1999. Please, please, please, kill it. thank you)
Of course, we also have to remember that the Sharks MAIN purpose in life is to win hockey games, so keep that in perspective. I do — now.
When we were working for the Spiders, we spent most games with the staff; the management team came from the Warriors, so they had a lot of experience from the NBA. At the time, the NBA had been doing what the NHL is doing now: centralizing control in league offices, to the point where the league had final say on how a team could use its own logo. This follows the lead of the NFL, where frankly, you can’t sneeze without league office approval.
This works for the NFL, since the NFL is in reality a league driven by common revenues shared out to the teams — thank the glass teat for that. Every other league has wanted to tie into that glass teat, too, with better or worse success. Right now, bluntly, I wouldn’t be looking to the NBA as a model for how to run a sports league.
We tended to talk sports business a LOT during those games — it’s long been an interest of ours (Laurie’s MBA is in Sports Management involving financing stadium upgrades), and let’s face it, the hockey pretty much sucked…. And the league centralization was one of the topics, because of what the NBA was doing. you can imagine, by the way, how popular it was among the team organizations…
So now here we are a decade or so later, and the NHL’s following down that path, too. the web site is just one facet of this — you can also see the fingers of central control in the new jersey designs, and I don’t think it’s a good thing. But that, as Alton Brown would say, is another show.
Personally, I think it’s very important for the league to take ownership of league-wide issues, and that includes league marketing and promotion. you can’t depend on the teams to do what’s in the best interest of the league. I also think it’s useful for the league to have a central set of services — including web sites — that act as sort of a “minimum level of acceptability” for teams uninterested or unwilling to invest in their own systems. Give them a default setup they can plug and chug for the cheapskates and the incompetents, so the league doesn’t look stupid because of bad implementations by their franchises.
You know, the new web sites? the centralized stuff? It’s — OKAY, I guess — but man, it’s so damn generic.
But the MSG situation isn’t that. We’re now getting into the problem of whether the league can prevent from going beyond generic lowest-common-demominator web site, and whether teams can market their own way above and beyond what the league is doing.
The league is now saying “no, we’re in charge”, and MSG is saying “oh, f— you”. I’m with MSG here. If this issue had been hashed out by the Board of Governors and the plan voted forward, I’d be backing the NHL — they might be wrong, but they chose this path, and I’d say give it a shot and see what happens. But instead, if Brooks is correct, this is being implemented based on what can only be called feature creep of a more general mandate. And this kind of issue is too important NOT to have been talked through at the BoG level and there have been a formal buyoff.
Because we’re not talking about web sites here. We’re talking about who’s in charge. The league office — of which Bettman is the head — is now going to the teams and declaring they’re in charge, and that the teams have to do it the league way. I have no problem when this is involving league-wide intiatives and marketing, but to take the next step and start telling teams they can’t go beyond those league initiatives? I have a real problem there.
It’s one thing for the league to set minimum standards and policies, and work with the lesser teams to come up to those standards. It’s another when the league starts taking the progressive teams and pulling them back and preventing them from innovating or excelling. It’s almost like a classroom where the smart kids are told to quit reading extra, or ahead, or doing extra homework, so that everyone gets the same grades in the end. Phht.
So I’m with MSG here. Teams should be in control of the team marketing message and destiny — and the web site is a crucial aspect of that. To me, it looks like Bettman is exceeding his granted authority by attaching new initiatives to an old business plan, and frankly, I don’t see that this is something that is good for the NHL; it’s a power play to centralize power in the league, and the NHL has traditionally been a league powered by the teams, not by the league office. While I think having the teams run it creates its own set of problems (ask Hamilton fans about it!) Bettman seems to be willing to force the league into a generic mediocrity in the name of centralizing power in the league office (i.e., him).
What’s going to be REALLY fascinating is figuring out who’s going to fall on which side of this battle. At first approximation, this is going to be big team vs. small team; the high-revenue teams will support MSG for obvious reasons, and the less successful teams that depend on revenue sharing will likely back Bettman. But I doubt it’s that simple in the details, and this could well turn into a flash point that may determine Bettman’s future as commissioner. The issue of team control vs league control is a sensitive one, a true minefield, and only time will tell whether Bettman has the map to negotiate that minefield properly here, or whether he’s going to step in it.
That it’s actually gone public and turned into a lawsuit? that alone indicates to me this has gotten really serious; these are things handled privately in back rooms. that it hasn’t been indicates that MSG is ready for a fight, and thinks it has backing among other teams to win. And if Bettman KNEW he was going to lose, he’d have cut a deal. So my gut tells me right up front the Board of Governors is divided and it’s too close to call.
And I’m wondering what the worst case scenario here would be. Can you imagine, for instance, this getting to the point where MSG says the hell with it and sells the team?
I can. And so Bettman better tread warily here. The big-revenue teams have this tendency to trod on the league and dictate policy at the smaller revenue teams — but then, the top five teams or so are the ones making the finances of the league fly, and so they SHOULD be able to have more sway. but in this case, I think those teams are right.
We’ll see. but I’ll bet most fans are watching the Nashville situation and thinking that’s the big problem. And I’ll bet Bettman hopes they continue. Here is where the real fight is, kids. Adn the gloves are off.