You might recall at the end of October when President Obama commented on the NHL lockout during an interview with Jay Leno. His statement was simple: The two sides only make money because of fan support. The two sides should be able to "figure this out".
Now, almost two months later, Obama is again offering his opinion on the NHL lockout. Spoiler alert: He still blames both sides.
Regardless of which party you align yourself with politically, as a hockey fan reading this article it's impossible not to agree with President Obama (unless you're Tim Thomas). In an interview with WCCO-TV in Minneapolis, Obama again commented on the NHL lockout.
The President's quote below is courtesy of CBC.ca.
"My message to owners and to players is, 'You guys make a lot of money and you make a lot of money on the backs of fans, so do right by your fans. You can figure out how to spread out a bunch of revenue that you're bringing in, but do right by the people who support you,"' Obama said. "And I shouldn't have to be involved in a dispute between really wealthy players and even wealthier owners. They should be able to settle this themselves. And remember who it is that's putting all that money in their pockets."
Well said, Mr. President.
There really is no reason the NHL should require the President, or Government mediators to solve what really boils down to a rather simple issue. The aspect of dividing money and agreeing on various terms shouldn't be this difficult. The whole situation has been frustrating, and frankly embarrassing, for each and every hockey fan.
Let's not forget about the countless victims of the current NHL lockout. As Obama correctly notes, the argument is between wealthy players and even wealthier owners. However, it's the little guy getting stepped on. The President specifically refers to the fans being mistreated but let's not forget the various team employees that have been laid off as well as the local establishments that are suffering due to the lack of hockey.
It's nice to see Obama again talking hockey. It's unfortunate and embarrassing that it's only because the sport is still in a deadlock.
Our very own Laura Astorian also gave her view on Obama's comments.
President Obama, presumably taking a break from fiscal cliff talks, weighed in on another important issue facing not one but two nations: the NHL's ongoing lockout. With no end in sight and a federal mediator involved, perhaps the president can empathize with the situation.
That's a pretty populist message from a populist president, but one that I'm sure Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, and every other sort of kind of fan can agree with. The league doesn't seem to be able to figure out how to market to their customers by giving them a product, which means this problem will end about the time Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell do dinner and a movie.
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Does Obama really think that Russian, Canadian, Swedish, etc. players really care about what he has to say? The man will go down in history as the worst president of all time, never has had a job in private industry and thinks he knows better than people that have really earned money.
The better question now may be how the owners and the players are going to be dividing a shrinking pot of money, at least in the short term. This can't help but hurt the brand, especially as we move into the cold "hockey weather" months. Whether it's the casual fan who might go see a game or two taking that money and using it for something else, or the hard-core fan who's gone ahead and cancelled his season tickets (I've read of at least a few), or even the sponsors, who have to be wondering what kind of value they'd be getting for their money advertising in a league that can't seem to keep itself operating in a consistent and long-term manner - that pot of NHL revenue has to be obviously under fire from all sides at this point.
The following is pure speculation, but I believe it bears some reasonable resemblance to reality:
The owners in the small, and in some cased mid, markets can't allow things to go on as they have been. Some form of both a significant shift in HRR% to the owners and improved revenue sharing are going to be necessary to get roughly half the league to sign off on this. Additionally, these will be the teams driving the changes to contracting language to keep the large market teams from going fishing like Philadelphia did in going after Weber in Nashville.
Meanwhile, the players took the hit last time, and generally are going to do so again, though they obviously don't want to. What I can't get a decent read on is whether or not, behind closed doors, they understand that they can't have what they want because half the teams in the league, give or take a few, can't financially support what the players want in terms of dollars.
On top of this, we've thrown two of the biggest ego-maniacal blockheads in all of sports lawyership, Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr. I said when the players brought in Fehr to lead them that this was going to happen in some form or another. And I actively called it talking to Dave on Twitter that the return of Fehr and Bettman to the meetings that had been going between the players and owners directly would cause the whole thing to blow up again. Of course, I haven't yet run into anybody who's told me that outcome surprised them...
So, roughly half the owners need the system fixed so that they're in the black at the end of a given frame of time (yearly, one would thing), the players don't want to lose out in a second successive round of CBA negotiations, and... Bettman and Fehr want to pad their resumes as destroyers of professional sports leagues? With all this going on, who's going to be remotely surprised, outside of possibly the parties involved, when the previous 3.3B pie of NHL revenues shrinks drastically when the next season gets underway?
*sigh* Why couldn't the St. Charles Chill have started play this season?
@miendiem Not sure if you remember Graham Mink at all (was with the Rivermen for a length of time) but he just Tweeted the other day about how players are foolish to not take the current offer as they have lost more than will ever be recovered. This has to be a factor for some guys at some point. Soon, if not already, they'll never be able to make up what they've already lost in pay.
@David Rogers I didn't catch that particularly, but I've seen others offer that bit of financial analysis of the players current position, and it makes a lot of sense. There's also the question of guys who were on the bubble and may never play another game because of this (either because young guys get ready this year and take their spots, or they're old and wind up retiring).
All of that does compound with whatever the new contracting rules end up being, and the significant potential for the HRR pie to shrink in the first several years out of the lockout. If the argument is now not over "whether or not the players will lose out", but over "how much the players will lose out", them continuing to hold the line is only going to hurt them financially, especially over the short- to medium-term. I suppose we'll see what those margins are actually worth to the players, as the lost paychecks from this season keep piling up.