This is a sobering letter from one fan to another. The NHL owners and the NHLPA are not overly concerned with what you or I have to say about all this “lockout” talk. You and I, we are nothing more than a by-product of what is happening. We are a minority in the grand sports fan base. We enjoy a niche sport that many don’t understand or watch. We are just the little guy in this large platform of entertainment where men compete against themselves with balls, sticks, cleats, hoops or nets.
So with your Facebook posts and National Hockey League National Fan Association (NHLNFA) fan clubs yelling and screaming about boycott this and don’t forget us nonsense. Please sober up to the fact the NHL has larger issues than losing a “few” fans who cry now but will crawl back once the puck is dropped again.
MLB vs NHL
Ranked by Forbes at the 27th position for Valuation, the MLB Toronto Blue Jays sit near the bottom of the baseball business rankings among the other 30 teams. Using the 2011 Forbes Valuation, The Blue Jays have revenue of near $168 Million. That is the small market team in the MLB we talk about often competing with the big boys in way of contract negotiations and player signings. This is what a poor small market Toronto Blue Jays with their measly $168M revenue look like compared to the New York Yankees rolling in $427M in revenue. The great divide that inspired out of the box thinking like that of Billy Beane and others to compete in such a freewheeling market. Talk about a great divide between those who have and those who don’t!
The lowest team on the NHL income statement is actually owned by the League itself. I forgot to mention that the NHL is the only pro sports league in North America that needs to own a team because an owner fled the scene after losing their shirt. Also we need to be reminded that nobody has taken a serious run at purchasing this great franchise in the desert known as; The Phoenix Coyotes. With a paltry $70 Million in revenue this team scrapes by year in and year out losing money or just making ends meet.
Gate Receipts for each team in 2011
Toronto Blue Jays $34M ($432,098 per game)
Phoenix Coyotes $18M ($439,024 per game)
That means on average the bottom of the barrel team in the NHL and a cellar dwelling team in the MLB have almost the same amount of income per game from ticket sales. Yet one team is relatively healthy while the other can’t find an owner.
Product Cost. (Players)
Toronto Blue Jays $101M
Phoenix Coyotes $52 M
So what is the vast difference in the business playing field between the Toronto Blue Jays and the Phoenix Coyotes?
I won’t name the internet sports forum or the internet handle that summed up the TV viewership of hockey in the easiest and most sobering terms for me to understand;
“Nobody gives a ____ about NHL hockey on TV”
The old adage that the internet doesn’t lie. We are all fans of niche sport, which for the most part does not come off on television in the best of forms. However a few of you reading this right now are thinking, “Baseball is so boring, I hate it. Who watches Baseball?”
It is estimated by the end of the 2015 the aggregate worth of MLB television deals will be worth $1.5B a year. It sits at about $923M right now for this year alone. That TV deal is worth almost ten times the value of the Phoenix Coyotes.
So nobody wants to buy the Phoenix Coyotes yet the LA Dodgers which has bled money and under bad management sold for 2.8B to an ownership group that includes former NBA great Magic Johnson. Is there any wonder that a team like the Dodgers sold for 2.8B when the team is about to sign a $100m a year Local TV deal that stretches 5 years?!
There is value in TV deals and MLB owners see this. The Toronto Blue Jays are owned by Rogers Communications. Rogers Sportsnet (Rogers Communications) has the TV rights to every single Toronto Blue Jays game estimated to be worth $35M a year.
The Fox Sports Network (FSN) local affiliate deal with the Phoenix Coyotes is estimated to be worth less than $2.5M a year. Talks of FSN and Turner Broadcasting teaming up with some local affiliates that would include Phoenix might drive that pay out up to $3.5M a year. Those rumors surfaces and never came to fruition as of yet. Besides that kind of money is just peanuts.
Who is watching Baseball?
Sportsnet’s top five Blue Jays audiences for the 2011 season are as follows:
Friday, April 1 – Minnesota @ Toronto (976,000)
Friday, Sept. 2 – Toronto @ New York Yankees (742,000)
Saturday, Aug. 6 – Toronto @ Baltimore (730,000)
Sunday, April 3 – Minnesota @ Toronto (729,000)
Monday, May 16 – Toronto @ Detroit (723,000)
Comparison with Hockey fanatical Canada
CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada 2011 Viewership in Millions
7:00 Montreal vs. Toronto – 1.94 million
10:00 Pittsburgh vs. Vancouver – 989,000
7:00 Ottawa vs. Toronto – 2.54 million
10:00 Pittsburgh vs. Calgary – 1.01 million
6:00 Montreal vs. Winnipeg – 1.83 million
Canada drives the NHL TV viewing market, yet it barely takes a bite out of a few average top 5 Toronto Blue Jays baseball games. I would have thought that Hockey Night in Canada would have 5-6 times the viewership of the top watched MLB Toronto Blue Jays games.
Something is wrong with the NHL and it is not just labor strife. You be the judge.
With that said my fellow fans,
No more of this drunken delusion of grandeur that we should be sitting at a table with the “Product” and the vehicle that pushes that “Product” out onto the sports stage. The players are a production outfit made up of a select few that with enough passion, sweat, blood and sacrifice get a shot at the grand stage that is the NHL. Unfortunately that stage isn’t even a blip on the sports map. That stage doesn’t generate money or interest from the American public let alone a staggering amount from Canada.
The product and the NHL stage in which it showcases itself I am a huge fan of without a doubt. I chose not to compare the NHL to the NFL for the simple reason that football has become the greatest spectacle and best run league in North America. The NFL is the most hyped and best TV executed masterpiece in sporting history. The NFL generates excitement and drives a sports fan like myself towards their product for just a short six months of the year.
The NHL doesn’t have that NFL type media blitz and social clout in any shape or form. When it comes the NHL, ESPN doesn’t care. CBS doesn’t care. NBC has fading interest. Fox is barely hanging on and with their money now focused on local baseball markets FSN and hockey could be closer to divorce.
The players are fighting for jobs and against contraction. The owners just want to point out that they employ a product that they can’t sell.
Prepare for a long lockout. Owners can afford to sit out. If the LA Dodgers sat out and forfeited $55M in TV revenue someone would need to check Magic Johnson and his ownership group for a fever. If the Nashville Predators can sit out and watch $4m in TV revenue slip away will anyone notice the lights are out in NHL arenas?
Sober Up. I did.